Yulii Engel Biography of Scriabin Chapter II

II. School years

(1882–1889)

Why Scriabin joined the cadet corps – Comrades and seniors in the corps, their attitude to him – His health and successes – A certification from 1885 – First public performance as pianist – Piano lessons with Gyorgi Konyus – Nikolai Zverev, his students, musical evenings. Nocturne in A flat, 1884 – Work on musical theory with Sergei Taneyev and Gyorgi  Konyus – Konyus’ observations of Scriabin – Monigetti – Features of Scriabin’s compositional habits at that period – His helplessness in everyday life.

Thus, in those quiet, feminine surroundings, Scriabin’s life was spent until his tenth year. The little boy, as is usual with children of his age, learned little by little to study, ‘to practise’, but essentially he grew up in freedom, at leisure, with the possibility of devoting himself to whatever he was instinctively attracted to; his relations encouraged him in this, and delighted in it. But finally it was time to think seriously about choosing an educational establishment.

Scriabin’s father would have liked to send the little boy to a lycée,[1] but the child eagerly begged to join the cadet corps. And ‘when Sasha begged like that it was impossible to refuse.’

Of course the child’s desire was based, not on an inclination for military affairs but above all on the living example of those around him. All Sasha’s uncles were cadets; the youngest of them, Dmitri Alexandrovich (then still known as Mitya) was only six years older than his nephew. The child used to listen to their tales of life in the corps, took part in their leisure activities, listened to the music they made. The example of Mitya, who loved the corps (at that time the corps were considered superior to the gymnasia[2]) had more influence on the child than anything else, and was the cause of his request to join the cadets.

It was Sasha’s aunt, Lyubov Alexandrovna, who prepared him for the entrance examination. The little boy got on with the subjects quickly and easily. In the examination itself he came out (15) top of seventy entrants, and in his tenth year, in the autumn of 1882, was ready to join the first class of Cadet Corps no. 2 in Moscow (which is in Lefortovo).

In this corps the Scriabins may be said to have been a fixture. One of them, Vladimir Alexandrovich, an uncle of Sasha’s, was a tutor here at this time and lived in the building itself. The little boy moved in with him. Thus Sasha, though living in the corps building, was one of the day boys and grew up in  familial surroundings.

At holiday periods the little boy was usually sent home, to his grandmothers[3] and his aunt and it was there that he spent the time until his return to the corps. Two to three years after Alexander joined the corps, the Scriabins sold the family home (as was inevitable after the death of the head of the family) and moved into Lefortovo itself, to another of Alexander’s uncles, who was a tutor in Cadet Corps no. 1. Both the corps were situated near each other, so that Alexander was now very near both to his grandmother and his aunt.

Skryabin’s gifts were soon noticed both by his comrades in the corps and by the teachers. The comrades were very fond of the ‘cadet by chance’, as they soon started to call him. The did not even beat him in the first days, as is customary with all novices according to the ritual of the corps. Alexander’s gentle disposition, his resourcefulness in devising amusing pranks, his brilliant abilities and his musical talent meant that most people liked him and even made for a wide popularity within the corps. When he played the piano in the evenings, his comrades listened eagerly to him and sometimes requested this or that improvisation. His verses, too, excited interest.

The daughter of the corps director, A. F. Albedille, took especial interest in Alexander; she was a great music-lover and a musician herself. She played duets with him and when he  was ill, as sometimes happened, she took care of him.

If we add to all this the influence of relations serving in the corps we can understand the exclusive position which Skryabin occupied in the corps. Every kind of allowance was made for him, and he was excused completely from some duties (from shooting, sometimes from drill, but not from gymnastics). They did not even make him struggle over military theory, in which he  took little interest.

Allowance was also made for Skryabin over the state of his health. From birth he had not been robust, and this persisted during his time in the corps and indeed throughout his life. He never went through the usual children’s diseases easily. At the age of twelve he suffered a very serious illness. Measles were complicated by dropsy, and the child was near death. Doctor Pokrovsky, who treated the sick child, said that there was hardly any hope of recovery, but that he would try one extreme measure… And this measure helped.[4] One summer, Skryabin was taken  to Samara to drink kumis[5] because of his weak lungs. He was also taken for a summer to the Crimea.

While all this was going on Scriabin studied at the corps very well. He did every task with his usual care and exactness; indeed, with his gifts, everything was easy for him. In the lowest classes he even won year prizes, but after that no further prizes were awarded to him – firstly, because he was devoting himself increasingly to music, secondly, because the management  considered that those who would follow a military path were the ones needing prizes.

A report on Scriabin’s results in class four of the corps has been preserved.[6] Here is the substance of that report, addressed to his grandmother:

                        Dear Madam

                                    Elizaveta Ivanovna!

            Your grandson, cadet in class four, obtained the following results in the most recent certification:

            Divinity:                       11

            Russian language:           9

            French language:            12

            German language:          10

            Algebra:                        9

            Geometry:                     10

            Natural history:              12

            History:                         10

            Geography:                    8

            Drawing:                       8

            Average mark:               9.8

            Position in class: 1st out of 22 persons

            Conduct: Good, although in the strict sense one should not put it that way, as in

            this year he has been more neglectful in preparing tasks.

            Teacher: College counsellor V. Matskevich.

From this certification it is clear why Scriabin, having been a brilliant pupil, became a good one, and why ‘in the strict sense’ that happened.[7] But with the average result of 9.8 (according to a twelve-mark system) he remained first in the class, nonetheless; obviously, this was the highest mark.

In the very first year of his time at the corps, Scriabin made an appearance as pianist in a corps soirée, which took place with the closest collaboration of A. F. Albedille, who was mentioned earlier. He played a gavotte by Bach, and he played this, like almost everything at that time, without having obediently studied from the printed music, but principally by ear, having listened to how others played it. Thus, one cannot say that it was academically pure Bach; there was also something in it of the pianist’s own. At the end of the piece the little performer even hesitated, but did not get lost by any means; and he improvised, in an orderly way, a few chords of his own which were necessary for an ending. At about the same time Scriabin also played a ‘Venetian Gondolier’s Song’ by Mendelssohn.

In the summer of 1883 Scriabin started for the first time to take actual ‘lessons’ in piano. It was Gyorgi Eduardovich Konyus [Conus] who became his piano teacher. Konyus is now [1915-16] a professor at Saratov Conservatoire, a theorist, composer and pianist.[8] At that time Konyus was himself still studying at Moscow Conservatoire. He was twenty, and had just moved from class six to class seven in Paul Avgustovich Pabst’s piano class. Konyus was living at that time by the Nikolaevsky railway track, in the village of Khovrino. Here is his own account of his work with Scriabin.

A lady whom I did not know came to me (it was Lyubov Alexandrovna) and asked me to give lessons to an eleven-year-old boy,[9] who turned out to be Sasha Scriabin. He lived with his grandmothers[10] – as I remember, they doted on him – near to me in a place where there were many dachas, which had the same name as the village: Khovrino, near to the same railway line, in the neighbourhood of a whole series of ponds with picturesquely wooded banks, above which the songs of nightingales resounded incessantly.

The child was frail in appearance. He was pale, small in stature, seemed younger than his age. He      turned out to know not only notation; he knew the scales, the tonalities, and played something   to me with little, weak fingers which could hardly press down the keys. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but it was played accurately and with a satisfactory flow. His stage of preparatory development can be approximately understood by his having played Weber’s Perpetuum mobile op. 24[11] as one of the first pieces we worked at together. He learned pieces quickly, but his playing, I remember, was always insubstantial[12] and monotonous – probably owing to physical insufficiencies.  I regret that I cannot say exactly what else we worked at together. But, probably, I will be right in saying that having learned the scales in all keys and all kinds of technical exercises and arpeggios he played the easier Cramer etudes, pieces by Mendelssohn and short miniatures by Chopin.

I worked at the piano with Scriabin all through the summer of 1882, and then, after leaving the         summer dacha behind, continued lessons with him in Moscow [18] throughout the winter of 1882– 83, probably stopping before the exams.[13] At that time Sasha was living in the cadet corps  (the second or the fourth – wearing the well-known blue uniform) with his uncle, who was a teacher in the same corps. I remember that all through the winter I set out every Thursday at four from the Nikitskaya,[14] where I had furnished rooms, to Lefortovo by horse-drawn tram, devoting more than an hour to the journey itself.

At that time there was not even any talk about Scriabin’s joining the Conservatoire as yet. He was following his own inclination in working at music but preparing for a military career. From my own conversation with Alexander Nikolaevich’s grandmother (while he was still in the country, at Khorvin) I remember that she told me several times that A. N.’s mother, who had died early, was unusually gifted musically and played remarkably well. I do not know with whom Scriabin studied before me. But there is no doubt that he had worked with somebody.[15] Later, in the spring of 1883,   [1884?] I lost touch with Scriabin.

Scriabin was left to his own devices as a pianist for a while, and it was at that time, clearly, that the decision finally developed within him to enter the conservatoire. In order to prepare for this he began to take private lessons in piano playing with Nikolai Sergeievich Zverev, a teacher at the conservatoire.

Zverev was an ‘old-fashioned gentleman’, from the time when it was considered that the study of music was only acceptable in an amateur way for a ‘decent person’, not as a profession. He studied piano playing with Dubuque and Henselt[16] and was a fine pianist, but he turned to teaching only under the pressure  of external circumstances, after he had happily made his way  through a large fortune. He taught at the Moscow Conservatoire from 1870 until his death in 1893.

Some pupils lived in the house with Zverev with bed and board. At that time, when Scriabin started working with Zverev, the following were boarders of this kind destined to become Conservatoire pupils: Sergei Rachmaninov, Matvei Presman (later, director of the music college at Rostov on Don and a professor at the Conservatoire of Saratov), Leonid  Maximov (a brilliant pianist who died in 1904, a professor at the college of the Philharmonic Society).

Amongst Zverev’s private pupils, the following were outstanding: Chernyayev (son of the hero of the [Turkestan] war of 1887-88[17], now an officer of the Guards), and Dukhovsky (later, a public prosecutor; now, a presiding attorney).[18] […]

Emilii Rozenov,[19] himself a pupil of Zverev at one time, characterises his teaching methods thus:

At that time there were absolutely no teachers with musical-critical training – analytical teachers. Nor was Zverev, that kind of teacher and in that sense his teaching might be described as routine. But amongst teachers of basic technique (and this was Zverev’s role in the Conservatoire) he was one of the best. From his school emerged such pianists as Siloti, Rachmaninov, Maximov, Pressman and others, all magnificently equipped in a technical sense – and that itself is significant.He knew as no-one else did how to impart discipline in technical work, how to teach students to practice seriously. Zverev’s boarder-pupils had to get up at six in the morning, clean their clothes and shoes themselves, and make the bed; after that they sat down to play. There was to be no sloppiness or time-wasting about this; otherwise, Zverev’s shout, friendly but strict, would immediately resound from where he sat in a neighbouring room with a long speaking-tube to his mouth: ‘Ma (Zverev’s name for Maximov), stop improvising!’ ‘Mo (his name for Pressman, short for Motya), play clearly!’, etc. With all of this, Zverev valued any sign of musicality highly – indeed, he was moved by it. His pupils loved him as if he were their own father, and obeyed him unconditionally.

Zverev retained from his former wealthy life not only a fondness for ‘the pleasures of the table’ but also a love for the company round the table. On Sundays he would arrange dinners (long, abundant and delicious, as a partaker narrates) to which were invited Zverev’s best pupils and his closest musical acquaintances. There were, besides the just-mentioned pupils, also professional pianists: S.M. Remezov (now [1915–­16] a professor at the Philharmonic college) and Szymanowski (later a teacher of theoretical subjects in Moscow), Dr. Sadkevich, the Conservatoire doctor ­and a great lover of music, and others.  Sometimes Tchaikovsky himself was there; Zverev, while already a teacher at the Conservatoire, had at one time taken lessons from him in musical theory.

Scriabin, too, was a constant Sunday visitor to Zverev for a fairly long time, one of the youngest to have been there. As a day boy, Skryabin could not be as familiar with his comrades who boarded with Zverev as they were amongst themselves; moreover, he was younger than them. But, in general, relations were good.  He was on more intimate terms with Chernyayev than with the others at that time. Among other things, their acquaintance was renewed in Petrograd many years later, about two years before Scriabin’s death.

After dinner, which was impressive as regards the portions both of food and of drink, a musical evening always took place in which pupils of Zverev appeared before an audience of their school fellows and the guests. Scriabin, too, played there. Zverev loved him and called him  ‘Skryabushka’, but valued the pianist in him more than the composer. According to his comrades’ accounts, Scriabin was already a splendid pianist at that time. He played the Schumann Paganini etudes, for example, magnificently, especially the final one in E major.[20]

Sometimes Scriabin also played his own compositions, as did Rachmaninov. Even then, at the age of fourteen, he enjoyed among his close acquaintances the reputation of a talented, highly promising composer in the spirit of Chopin. At that time he loved Chopin’s music passionately.

Sometimes he would put a few works by Chopin under his pillow at home, so as not to be separated from them even in the night. The compositions of Skryabin which he played at Zverev’s establishment were also in the line of Chopin: etudes, waltzes and mazurkas. Some of them, without doubt, were sketches – and especially significant in their formation – of works published later.

It was evident to us that Skryabin played even Bach and Mendelssohn differently from the principles imparted in authentic piano pedagogy. With him, his native instinct took precedence over the skills of training. It was the same, though in a much more pronounced way, in the area of creative composition.

It is difficult at the moment to establish exactly when Scriabin began to take lessons in musical theory (‘composition’). We only know that his first teacher was Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev, and that these lessons began two or three years before Scriabin entered the Conservatoire, apparently in 1885. This is the most likely year, but the possibility cannot be excluded that it was in 1884.

But Scriabin had composed a considerable body of work even before he began to work with Taneyev. And he did not just improvise his works, but also wrote them down. In no. 13 of the journal Muzyka, 1913, there is a nocturne by Scriabin dated 1884, when the composer was thirteen.[21] This nocturne (in the spirit of Chopin) is above all excellently laid out in a pianistic sense: it was born from the piano and sounds extremely well. Moreover, the flair for form, harmony and voice-leading is startling in a boy of thirteen who had not ‘studied’ these things.[22]

And it is evident from some curious musical orthography that he had not ‘studied’ them, for example: D flat instead of C sharp,  C flat instead of B natural and even E double flat and B double flat instead of a simple D and A  (in the third and fourth bars of the section in C major).[23] Even if this nocturne was written after studies with Taneyev began, it must in any case have been at the very earliest stage.

What follows is Sergei Ivanovich [Taneyev]’s own account of this beginning:

            One spring – I don’t remember which year, my memory for dates in years is poor – General             Nikiforov[24] came to see me, and he said: ‘May I bring a young, talented musician to see you?’ ‘Do bring him.’ They brought a young cadet, small, thin and fragile. I tested his ear –the ability was outstanding and obvious. I began to work with him a little,  introduced him to various elements: forms, the sentence, the period. Getting on towards September he wrote a few pieces,         and they were all very pleasing. A genuine talent could be discerned. Then we worked on       harmony for a year. There was already talk of his entering the Conservatoire; in order to prepare for             entry there, I recommended him to study with Gyorgy Eduardovich Konyus. He did so, and began      to work with Konyus at counterpoint, among other things.

            That summer I was living at Demyanovo, near to Klin. The Scriabins’ dacha was also situated not      very far from there, in Maidanovo, I think.  One time, while out for a ride, I came across           them at the dacha and took Alexander Nikolaevich back with me to see how he was getting on. I sat           him down in the park under an oak tree and set him some counterpoint to write. He’s sitting and writing, and young people (especially girls) walk around him and complain: ‘Poor little fellow, what wonderful weather, and instead of taking a walk he’s writing some counterpoint or other.’ Then, when I let him go, they caught up with their favourite and all of them went for a pleasant walk.[25]

That is all that Taneyev managed to tell me of his pre-conservatory work with Scriabin. The following reminiscences by G. E. Konyus may serve to fill in the gaps in this fragmentary account.

            Between the years 1887 and 1889 (again in spring), when I was living near Ostankino, in the place    known as ‘Panin’s Meadow’, Scriabin came to me with the request that I should work on harmony with him.  He started visiting me once a week, and thus we completed a course of harmony  by the summer. I can add the following observations which remain vividly in my memory from these   studies, and concerning the incredible speed with which we completed the course. It was not necessary for me to teach Scriabin harmony in the generally accepted meaning of the word, i.e. to develop and explain the subject, to illuminate the complicated aspects, to educate him harmonically or to inculcate correct progressions, to warn of incorrect ones or, even less, to train him and make him practise this or that method of resolution, modulating sequences etc. Everything of that sort which is required of a musician lived its own self-generated life within Scriabin, was prepared by nature herself. For the most part it remained for me only to attach theoretical labels (names, terms,   etc.) to what revealed itself as Scriabin’s innate knowledge. Usually I did not have to complete my explanation. Scriabin guessed instinctively from my first words what was being discussed, interrupted me and completed the account himself. Only such phenomenal quick-wittedness could explain the short  time – two to three months – in which he managed to complete the subject.

Despite prolonged efforts to recall how Scriabin wrote exercises, this has completely disappeared from my memory. This circumstance prompts me to ask myself: ‘Did he actually write down exercises?’ It is extremely likely that these were done during the lesson, directly at the piano.

The accounts by Taneyev and Konyus provoke some puzzlement: Why (unless this is just a slip) did Taneyev arrange his work with Scriabin in an unusual order? That is to say, he did not start with harmony and then form, but the other way round. Why did Konyus not know that Scriabin worked at harmony with Taneyev before he went to Konyus, and if he did know, why does he not refer to this in telling of Scriabin’s remarkable progress? Why does Taneyev say that Konyus worked with Scriabin at counterpoint, whereas Konyus speaks only of harmony? In reply to my request, G. E. Konyus clears up these perplexities thus:

It is evident that one must remember that for a year Scriabin went through harmony with S. I. Taneyev.[26] But from the succession itself which Sergei Ivanovich recounts: first some acquaintance with forms, then  harmony, it is clear that Taneyev was not leading Scriabin down the stereotyped routine path of the Conservatoire instructional plan, but teaching him in conformity with Scriabin’s own degree of talent and capability of quick learning. The characteristics of a pupil who impatiently rushes ahead, together with the tact of a pedagogue who understands that unnecessary holding back over details or dry harmonic exercises could only be harmful to such a nature as Skryabin’s, could not fail to suggest to Taneyev some modification of the usual method of teaching. To be precise, a practical knowledge of harmony needed to be acquired, partly at the piano, partly from written exercises which in their content were closely related to the student’s creative work, and by the same token removed from so-called classroom exercises.

 As a result of such a method of organising the work, Sergei Ivanovich could not but be assailed by doubts when the question arose of Skryabin’s entering the Conservatoire: might not the student still suffer from gaps in the harmonic knowledge which corresponds, as a whole, to the demands of the programme for entering the Conservatoire according to an examination in counterpoint? If we now remember Sergei Ivanovich’s extremely scrupulous conscientiousness, it becomes clear that he wanted to test whether a slightly unusual method of procedure in going through the preceding discipline of counterpoint had left gaps in Sasha’s harmonic education. Sergei Ivanovich himself worked eagerly in the summer (on composition and also on his Moveable Counterpoint)[27] as in winter he moved on to his lessons. It is probable that it was because of not having leisure himself that he sent Sasha to me in order to prepare for the examination. Thus Scriabin studied harmony at first with Sergei Ivanovich and before entering the Conservatoire practised with me for the examination. But he probably did not take the exam itself, for in relation to entering the          Conservatoire Taneyev had established a tradition of  exempting those whom he considered capable of entering his counterpoint class from the official examination.[28]              

In any case, in the years preceding entry to the Conservatoire – at the ages of 13, 14 and 15 –

Scriabin did not only compose a great deal, but, as is evident from the above, enjoyed the reputation of a highly promising composer. And that was how he was regarded, not only in the Zverev circle of musical specialists.

The young composer’s works met with even greater attention, indeed with outright enthusiasm, in the family of I. Monighetti, the institute doctor. He was often driven there on Sundays, even in his earliest years. In the family Monighetti, which consisted of father, son and two daughters, many young people gathered and life was merry, warm-hearted and noisy. Both sisters loved music, as did their parents; one of them graduated later from Pabst’s class and played Scriabin’s works excellently.[29] Scriabin felt at home in the Monighetti house, and this pleasant feeling stayed with him throughout his life.[30] He was always spending time with them, took part in all the entertainments and pranks, often played or improvised and introduced them to all his new works.

He was particularly eager to play his new works – even if they were in the condition of a sketch or just an embryo, a theme, a motive. This feature was characteristic of him throughout his life to the greatest extent with those who were the slightest bit interested in his works.

It is curious that in order to compose Scriabin had no need to be alone. Quite the opposite: a habit, remaining from childhood, of never staying alone, here too was preserved in full force. During the entire time of composing he did not like to remain alone, and when there were times in which he ‘composed day and night’, this concern of his assumed special proportions. He would invite his grandmother (or his aunt) ‘to sit for a while on the little divan where Sasha was working.’ Later a pillow was produced, and the little divan was transformed into a bed. And grandma did this with the greatest eagerness: in her own words, ‘one never slept so well as with the sounds of Sasha’s “composing.”’. It remained thus quite late on, even in the Conservatoire years.

By token of the same habit of not leaving the boy alone, for a long time – until his fourteenth year – allowed to go out by himself. Someone always accompanied him, most often his aunt Lyubov Alexandrovna. In the first period of study with S. I. Taneyev it happened that Sergei Ivanovich himself took on this role of ‘Sasha’s tutor’, taking his young student to the Skryabin’s house in the Zlatoustky pereulok, from whence he was later sent to the cadet corps. This was even the case when Scriabin was in his fourth year at the corps. On one occasion it came about that  he had to go to Kuznetsky Most alone for some sheet music, and there the driver of a horse-drawn vehicle ran into him, knocking him off his feet and breaking his right collar-bone. During his recovery Scriabin did not waste time, and practised at the piano with his left hand alone. But, of course, this incident could not strengthen his belief in his own practical independence and circumspection.


[1] There were four of these higher education facilities in Russia at that time: in Yaroslavl, Saint Petersburg, Odessa and Moscow. The first-named specialised in law.

[2] Secondary schools.

[3] See Chapter One; the second ‘grandmother’ was in reality a godmother.

[4] Thanks to Dr. John Bradley for this comment on Engel’s rather reticent account: ‘I  suspect that measles was complicated by pneumonia and pleurisy which would be likely to cause a pleural effusion, i.e. fluid in the chest, which might have been treated by attempts to drain the fluid by inserting a needle into the chest wall.’

[5] The fermented milk of a horse or ass.

[6] The report is dated December 21 1885. As there were seven classes in the corps, and Scriabin never stayed down for a second year, his years of attendance at the corps were 1882–89. Y.E.

[7] It is characteristic of the later Scriabin, and of the letters to Natalia Sekerina of the 1890s, that he obtained full marks in French and in natural history, and a high mark in divinity.

[8] Konyus had taught at the Moscow Conservatoire from 1891–99. He returned as a professor in 1920 and continued to teach there until his death in 1933.

[9] Scriabin was then not quite ten and a half years old. Y. E.

[10] See note 3.

[11] This is the finale of Weber’s sonata in C major. The choice of piece shows that at this early age Scriabin had plentiful dexterity and fluency, if not the strength to give the work the dynamic range it needs.

[12] Konyus’ term is ‘ethereal’, and later this was to be regarded as the special quality of the mature Scriabin, but for a teacher imparting basic technique a firm, clear tone would be a desideratum – the ‘ethereality’ was regarded as a shortcoming, and sometimes criticised later in reviews of concert appearances.

[13] It is clear that all these dates need to be transferred to the following year. Scriabin performed a Bach gavotte in the corps in the academic year of 1882–83; this was still during his study with G. E. Konyus. Accordingly, these studies began in the summer of 1883 (not 1882) and continued in 1883–84 (not 1882–83). Y. E.

[14] Probably the Bolshaya Nikitskaya, where the Conservatoire is situated.

[15] The earlier part of the account makes it clear that Scriabin studied a little, only with his aunt. Y. E.

[16] Alexandre Dubuque, 1812–1898, Russian pianist of French descent, a pupil of Field. Adolphe von Henselt, 1814–1889, German pianist and composer. He studied with Hummel in 1832; Liszt praised his ‘pattes de velours.’ He became the court pianist to Alexandra Fyodorovna, Empress of Russia, in 1838, and had very considerable influence on the system of musical education in Russia. At the end of his life, from 1887–88, he taught at Petersburg Conservatoire.

[17] It is possible that Engel has confused his history here. Mikhail Grigorievich Chernyayev (1828­–1898), was known as ‘The Lion of Tashkent’ after a daring but unauthorised exploit in 1865. He was honoured as a brave officer but  ordered back from Turkestan for disobedience to command. He was Governor-General of Turkestan from 1882­–1884, but took no part in the conflict of 1887­–88, having retired in 1886. http://hrono.ru/biograf/bio_ch/chernjaev_mg.php accessed Nov. 16 2020.

[18] The latter rank was, under the law reform of Alexander II and until 1917, that of an attorney at a district court, dealing with serious civil and criminal cases.

[19] Emilii Karlovich Rozenov (1861-1935), mathematician and musician, musicologist, critic, and pianist. Like Scriabin he studied with Zverev (but at the Conservatoire, not Zverev’s private school), Safonov, Taneyev and Arensky.

[20] In the Schumann Studies after Paganini Caprices, op. 3, the study in E major is No. 2. It is likely that the work referred to is the Six Concert Studies composed after Paganini Caprices, op. 10. In this set, another study in E minor and major has the final place. The minor section which starts the piece returns at the end, but in the centre is a long and brilliant section in E major.

[21] Reprinted in the complete edition, volume 1 (1947), p. 220–223. The editors give the date 1884–1886.

[22] Only the last line, as a transition to the da capo, is not particularly well organised. Y. E. [the complete edition prints out the da capo complete. The passage referred to by Engel is in the second system of p. 222 in the edition mentioned, Lento.]

[23] These recondite examples of orthography may be regarded as the ancestors of similar examples in the late works which have been studied by George Perle (‘Scriabin’s self-analyses’), Music Analysis 3/2 (Jul. 1984), p.101–122, and Cheong Wai-Ling (‘Orthography in Scriabin’s late works’), Music Analysis 12/1 (Mar. 1993), p. 47–69. The young composer was perhaps working out his harmonies from the bass up and regarding them as modifications of simpler harmonies – perhaps, not so far from his later method.

[24] There is a very distinguished present-day general by that name (a descendant?) but it has not been possible to trace the general referred to by Taneyev.

[25] Judging by this account and by the fact that Scriabin entered the Conservatory in January 1888, it is a credible supposition that Taneyev first met Scriabin in the spring of 1886. Taneyev ‘introduces him to elementary subjects’; towards autumn Scriabin wrote a few pieces, then came a year of study in harmony – up to the spring of 1887. This was followed by study with G. E. Konyus in the summer and autumn of the same year and entry to the Conservatory in January 1888. Lyubov Scriabina relates that Alexander was thirteen or fourteen when he started studying with Taneyev. From the above account he must have been fourteen. Y.E.

[26] Konyus writes to me: ‘I had completely forgotten about this. In the first place, I did not know that Scriabin turned to me on Taneyev’s advice. I learned this much later. And I was reminded by Scriabin himself even of the very fact that he studied harmony with me – and not so long ago. I had forgotten this because of its being so long ago and because of the abundance of pupils I have taught, and only gradually remembered all the details of which I told you. Y. E.

[27] Podvizhnyi kontrapunkt strogogo stilya, 1909. The usual English expression is ‘invertible counterpoint’. Taneyev’s title, which expresses the matter more accurately, is translated directly in most scholarly discussions. The full title of the English language version is Convertible Counterpoint in the strict style (trans. G. Ackley Bower. Boston, Bruce Humphries, 1962).

[28] Konyus’ interesting observations, it is evident, completely correspond with reality, all the more so as they are in accordance with Taneyev’s account. But, that being so, Skryabin’s progress with Konyus loses its hair-raising character, as it turns out that in two to three months he did not go through a whole new course of harmony, but only repeated what had been done earlier in the year. Work of this kind (repetition, coaching)

must have been clearly advisable for the teacher at that time (for that reason, probably, Scriabin did not write

down exercises for Konyus.) And only temporary forgetfulness of this whole period, including the very fact of working with Scriabin, can explain that Konyus did not remember this straight away. The question remains of why Taneyev spoke of Scriabin having worked at counterpoint during the summer, just when he was preparing to enter the counterpoint class. This may be connected with the unusual date of Scriabin’s entry to the Conservatoire – in the middle of the year –  which demanded a degree of preparation in counterpoint as well as in other elements.  In any case Konyus categorically denies that he worked with Scriabin on counterpoint. Y.E.

[29] The Monighetti sisters were Zinaida (1867–1950?) and Olga (1869–1952?). The younger sister Olga was the serious musician and seems to have been a good organiser of concerts also. Her memoirs, excerpts of which were published in 1940, do not mention a romance but are imbued with a feeling of close emotional identification.

[30] He even proposed to one of the sisters later. Y.E.