To view the Scriabin Association’s articles click on the titles below.
Click the title above to see Sherry Grant of the Scriabin Society of the USA interviewing our Vice-Chair Simon Nicholls on YouTube. Simon speaks about the late Aleksandr Serafimovich Scriabin, and about the relation of Scriabin’s thought to his creative work.
Simon Nicholls discusses the origin of the popular misnomer attributed to Scriabin, that of the ‘Chord of the Pleroma.’
The first complete biography of Scriabin (1915) By Yulii Engel. Translated by Simon Nicholls.
Yulii Engel’ (1868-1927) was a musical critic of rare insight and very considerable influence. Quite apart from his affinity with Scriabin, he was persuaded by Stasov to investigate Jewish folk music, in which he became an expert. He left Russia in 1922, travelling first to Berlin and ending his days in Palestine.
His biography of Scriabin was written for the memorial number of the Muzykal’nyi sovremennik (Musical Contemporary) which appeared in Dec. 1915-Jan. 1916, Scriabin having died the previous April. Engel had many prominent contacts who knew Scriabin well, and lists these sources at the beginning. This is still in many respects the most reliable and detailed biography, being for the most part a compilation of eyewitness accounts and the result of thorough research while trails were fresh. Simon Nicholls’ translation is from Engel’s text as printed in Muzykal’nyi sovremennik. Notes have been added to clarify the identity and history of individuals mentioned.
This is an ongoing project, with the later chapters to be added in due course. The individual chapters can be accessed by clicking on those below:
On the tracks of Scriabin as Pianist – by Simon Nicholls
Synopsis: Even during his lifetime Scriabin’s performances of his own works excited controversy. Some found them distorted while others considered them illuminating. Evidence remains in the form of contemporary accounts, drawings of the composer in action at the piano, and piano roll recordings. These last have to be listened to with awareness of their limitations, but can give valuable evidence about Scriabin’s playing, especially in combination with the graphical transcriptions made from them by Pavel Lobanov. Evidence shows that, far from being arbitrary, Scriabin’s ‘distortions’ were musically motivated.
Alexander Scriabin’s Use of French Directions to the Pianist – by Dr Richard Overill
Synopsis: We examine the frequency with which Alexander Scriabin employed French, as opposed to Italian, expressive directions in his piano compositions. We study this feature in relation to the various types of piano composition and also correlate it with the different locations in which he resided during his creative career, his study of Theosophy, and his cultural links with the symbolist movement in Silver Age Russia.
Scriabin, Poet of Fire and Ecstasy – by Guillaume Fournier
The young French pianist Guillaume Fournier qualified first as an engineer, studying piano at the same time, but then studied the piano professionally at the conservatoires of Rennes, Strasbourg, Lyon and Saint-Maur. He has taught in Le Mans Conservatoire since 2006 and was designated Professeur d’enseignement artistique in 2009. He won the Liszt prize in the Brest International Competition and the first prize in the Mayenne international competition in 2008. He has created the organisation Concerts Esperluette, which aims to facilitate access to music through combination with other art forms, and is a member of the CeFEDEM de l’Île de France. (Centre de Formation des Enseignants de la Musique) Within this forum he has lectured on the possibilities of video projection for musicians. He has given a number of recitals, concerto performances and musical-theatre shows during the Scriabin anniversary year, and he was invited in this year to perform at the international conference in Moscow at the Scriabin Museum, ‘The Path towards Scriabin’. This article is an edited and adapted version of his script for that performance, which also involved musical performance and a strong visual element.
The texts of Scriabin’s works: some observations of a performer-researcher-teacher- by Simon Nicholls
Synopsis: Until recently, the manuscripts of Alexander Scriabin have not been available to the public to any great extent. Recent facsimiles have begun to remedy this position. The texts of Scriabin’s works tend to have been problematic owing to the composer’s unreliable proof-reading (especially in the earlier period of his life), and an account of this problem is given, along with some observations on the metamorphosis in the composer’s handwriting and musical manuscript style, and an examination of some questions raised by various manuscripts and their possible effects on interpretational approaches.
Critique of subjectivity: An examination of Vospominaniya o Scriabine [Reminiscences of Scriabin] by Leonid Sabaneyev – by Alina Ivanova-Scriabina, Moscow
Synopsis: An attempt to research objectively the most well-known work on the biography of Scriabin – Vospominaniya o Scriabine [Reminiscences of Scriabin] by Leonid Sabaneyev. Such an examination has never been conducted, as the factual material and Sabaneyev’s recollections were considered inviolable. Our proposal is to change this approach and to look on the Reminiscences through the prism of critique. We would like to point out other valuable works and research on Scriabin. We believe that only by exploring the diversity of literature on the composer’s life and works will we find his true image.
Alexander Borovsky- The Forgotten Scriabinist and his own Reminiscences of Scriabin – by Darren Leaper with material and input provided to the Scriabin Association by William Jones
Synopsis: In October 1915, six months after the death of Scriabin, a memorial concert held in St. Petersburg by the young pianist, Alexander Borovsky, would hail him as the ‘heir-interpreter’ of Scriabin’s works. The connections between this extraordinary pianist and his links with Scriabin’s music had largely been forgotten however through the pianist’s unpublished memoirs, left to his student, William Jones (Delmar, USA), many of these links can be revealed. Documents and memorabilia collected over many decades by Mr Jones further evidence such links, which include Borovsky’s own relationship with the music and his first-hand accounts of hearing Scriabin himself perform.
The Development of Dissonance in Scriabin’s Piano Preludes – by Anthony Hewitt
Synopsis: Renowned British pianist Anthony Hewitt has recorded the complete Scriabin preludes for Champ Hills records, released in 2016. In this article Anthony discusses his own preparation of the Preludes and explores the harmonic development throughout the works.
The Scriabin Association is privileged to present here an article by the distinguished Russian scholar Ildar Khannanov. Dr. Khannanov studied music under the supervision of the prominent Russian theorist Yuri Kholopov at Moscow Conservatoire, and philosophy under Jacques Derrida at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Khannanov’s publications have appeared in Russia, America and Europe. Dr. Khannanov engages, in a strictly scientific and disciplined manner, with the problem of what music – and Scriabin’s music in particular – ‘means’, and how it ‘means’. The present article was originally published in Russian in the Scriabin Museum’s series of scholarly publications, Uchenye Zapiski, in 2012.
The present article deals with Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata, op. 53, from a formal perspective. The writer’s analysis is based on intimate knowledge of the work in study and performance, and he has found that understanding of this aspect of the music is an important aid to comprehension both for performers and listeners. Readers will need a copy of the score to hand, with numbered bars.
A brief speculation as to a possible influence for Scriabin’s composition ‘Enigme op. 52 no. 2′.
The Eighth Sonata, the longest of Scriabin’s one-movement sonatas, was the last of the cycle of ten to be finished. It differs greatly from the other late sonatas in its extensive, apparently discursive form and generally more subdued expressive register, yet it has always fascinated players and listeners. The present study attempts to show that the linked qualities of symmetry and repetition which mark out the Eighth are a logical culmination of Scriabin’s developing and original treatment of sonata form from his earliest works; to suggest why he placed it in the position he did, instead of at the end of the cycle; and to investigate the deep logic of the form of the work. The sonata lacks the numerous subjective performance directions of the other late works, with a few important exceptions, but Scriabin made some significant comments about it. The content of the work is investigated with reference to those comments.