The Russian composer Alexander Scriabin lived through the death of his mother when he was only one year old. The parent departed St. Petersburg to become a diplomat in Turkey. Alexander stayed behind and went to reside with his grandmother and his aunt, an amateur pianist who documented the early life of Scriabin.
When he was little, Scriabin loved pianistic mechanisms, trying to build his very own pianos and giving them away to friends. He was timid, but would sometimes perform his own plays with puppets to local audiences.
Nikolai Zverev, who taught Rachmaninoff, also taught other famous composers. Scriabin had many disagreements with his teacher, Aransky, so he never got a composition degree although, he did leave the Moscow Conservatory with a little gold medal in piano performance.
Be that as it may, after he had performed his own works and gotten good reviews, Scriabin was asked to compose for a publishing firm known as Belaieff. Many other notable composers also composed for this firm. Among them were Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov.
He began teaching piano at the Moscow Conservatory in 1898, which he quickly became bored with. Shortly, he abandoned his wife and his teaching position and married a pupil. After that, he traveled between America, Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland for a number of years. In 1909, he returned to Russia to stay.
He had been influenced by mystical ideas and theosophy since 1905. In fact, he felt that his work after that date was in preparation for a "supreme ecstatic mystery". During the period before his death he thought of producing a multi-media work in the Himalayas, He said that it would be "grandiose religious synthesis of all arts". He went on to say that this performance "would herald the birth of a new world." Eventually, Alexander Nemtin transformed the sketches for this piece into a performable version called Mysterium.
Scriabin's first works were heavily influenced by Chopin and Liszt.
His personal theories grew, and he became quite bold harmonically. Sometimes he used chords built of 4ths and 2nds. In this way, he achieved what he termed "impressionist atonality". He died at 43 years old from septicemia, which he - a hypochondriac - got through cutting his lip while shaving.
Etudes for piano
Spanning his entire career, Scriabin's Etudes are illustrative of his transformation from emulating Chopin to self-realization as one of the early 20th century's most progressive composers. The oldest work here is dated from 1887, when Scriabin was only 15. The Twelve Etudes Op. 8 are more sophisticated, but stay very true to the style of Chopin and Liszt.
Along With the Op 42 Etudes, after the very productive year of 1903, Scriabin moved into a period of very radical advancements that were quite different from what he had previously accomplished.
His later works continue to evolve into an almost atonal, individual style that reflects the complex mystical world-view of the composer.
The 89 Preludes in Scriabin's output show his special artistic growth. The twenty-four Preludes Opus 11 dates from 1888. It is clearly of the romantic tradition and is apparently quite influenced by Liszt and Chopin. Nonetheless, it is easy to discern the unique sound of Scriabin. These five sets Op. 31, 33, 35, 37 and 39 were all composed during 1903, an incredibly productive year. At the time, Scriabin was moving closer and closer to atonality in his music, while in his personal life, he engaged in increasingly complex theosophical thinking. The intensely concentrated Five Preludes, Op. 74 (1914) are included in the last of Scriabin's pieces. As time passed, he changed radically as a musician and moved toward almost complete atonality. He felt that he was a representative of divine creative force. His world-view became more and more complex and mystical.
Scriabin's first 3 sonatas of his 10 published sonatas are written in a Romantic style. This style is reminiscent of Chopin and Liszt however, Scriabin´ s unique voice is present from start to finish.
In the 4th Sonata, the composer makes an important transition. In his music, he was becoming more and more atonal. Simultaneously, his personal life was becoming more complex as he pondered theosophy.
Starting with the fifth, Scriabin's sonatas don't have a key signature and make up of a single movement. The so-called "White Mass" (the 7th Sonata) was a favorite of Scriabin and borders on surrealism. Scriabin came full circle after completing the ninth Black Mass Sonata. This sonata possesses menacing and violent harmonies. Even the subtitle, which the composer created, was said to be frightening and shocking to all (including the composer!)