Scriabin was Rachmaninov's classmate at the Moscow Conservatoire, and he likewise received a Gold Medal for his combined studies in piano and composition. His commitment was also as unswerving as Rachmaninov's, and yet public knowledge of his music remains hazy, especially outside of Russia, and it still has an esoteric and forbidding aura. Scriabin's starting point was Chopin, but where others were content to pay reverent homage to that earlier master, Scriabin took him as inspiration for bold experiments in his preludes, études and above all in his great series of ten sonatas, which span his career.
Working within the loose artistic movement known as "Symbolism", his ambitions were fuelled by theosophy and his own syncretism of mystical ideas. For him, some of his later projects stretched far beyond the normal limits of art, and one partially written piece was designed to bring about the dissolution of the universe into nothingness. The Sonatas take us on a journey from his early post-Chopin soundworld through to refined sensations and rarefied sounds of his later Symbolism, and although his ideas descended through decadence to insanity, his musical judgement never left him.
A lecture by Marina Frolova-Walker and Peter Donohoe OBE 21 January
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/scriabin-piano
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