Alexander Scriabin

(25 Decmber/6 January -new style 1871, Moscow - 14 April/27 April 1915, Moscow)


Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin was a Russian composer and pianist virtuoso of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is also widely regarded as on of the founding fathers of modernism in music. Although his mother was a concert pianist, little Alexander couldn't benefit from this as she died when he was only 1 year old.
As a child he was frequently exposed to his aunt's piano playing, this may have been the trigger which revealed his passion for music. He began studying piano from an early age, taking lessons from Nikolai Zverev, a severe disciplinarian, who was teaching Sergei Rachmaninoff and a number of other prodigies at the same time.
From 1882 to 1889, Scriabin was trained as a solider at the Moscow Cadet School, and at the same time, he studied music and took piano lessons. In 1888 he was admitted to the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied piano under V.I. Safonov and composition under Sergey Taneyev and Anton Arensky. Despite his small hands who could barely stretch to a ninth, he became a noted pianist. While he was practicing Franz Liszt's Réminiscences de Don Juan and Mily Balakirev's Islamey, he damaged his right hand and, although his doctor said he would never recover, he eventually regained the use of his hand. In this period he composed his 3rd piano sonata, the Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, his first large-scale masterpiece.
By 1892 he graduated with the Little Gold Medal in piano performance, but did not complete a composition degree because of strong differences in personality and musical opinion with Arensky. His piano pieces that constitute his opuses 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 date from this time. His first debut as a pianist took place in 1894 in St. Petersburg where he performed his own compositions, well received by the public and critics. In August 1897, Scriabin married the young pianist Vera Ivanovna Isakovich, and then toured in Russia and abroad, culminating in a successful 1898 concert in Paris. That same year he undertook a teacher position at the Moscow Conservatory.
After 1900 he was much preoccupied with mystical philosophy, and his Symphony No. 1, composed in that year, has a choral finale, to his own words, glorifying art as a form of religion. In Switzerland (where he established in 1904) he completed his Symphony No. 3, first performed under the baton of Arthur Nikisch in Paris in 1905. With the financial assistance of a wealthy sponsor, he spent several years traveling in Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and United States, working on more orchestral pieces, including several symphonies. From 1906 to 1907 Scriabin toured the United States, where he gave concerts with Safonov and the conductor Modest Altschuler.
Having returned permanently to Russia in 1909, he continued to work on grandiose projects such as a multi-media work that would be performed in the Himalaya Mountains. Although this work was never finished, Scriabin left behind some sketches for his piece, Mysterium, and eventually a preliminary part named L'acte préalable (Preparatory Action) was made into a performable version by Alexander Nemtin. Several late pieces published during the composer's lifetime are believed to have been intended for Mysterium, like the Two Dances Op. 73.
Rather than seeking musical versatility, Scriabin was happy to write almost exclusively for solo piano and for orchestra. His earliest piano pieces resemble Frédéric Chopin's and include music in many genres that Chopin himself employed, such as the étude, the prelude, the nocturne, and the mazurka.
Although called a genius, madman, mystic, visionary, Alexander Scriabin created a kaleidoscopic series of ecstatic orchestral and piano works whose power and significance continue to resonate in the history of this century's music and artistic endeavors.
His music legacy consists of mainly piano and orchestral works, his piano works include 10 sonatas (1892–1913), an early concerto, and many preludes and other short pieces. Although Scriabin was an idolater of Frédéric Chopin in his youth, he early developed a personal style. As his thought became more and more mystical, egocentric, and ingrown, his harmonic style became ever less generally intelligible. His early works are characterized by tonal language while his later works developed a substantially atonal and much more dissonant musical system. Scriabin was influenced by synesthesia, and associated colors with the various harmonic tones of his atonal scale, while his color-coded circle of fifths was also influenced by theosophy. He is considered by some to be the main Russian Symbolist composer.
Here  you can find a list of Alexander Scriabin's works.