rue de la Réforme 45, Brussels
Bol'shoy Nikolopeskovskiy Pereulok, 11, Moskva, Russia, 119002
Novodevichy Cemetery Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia
Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (6 January 1872 [O.S. 25 December 1871] – 27 April [O.S. 14 April] 1915) was a Russian composer and pianist. The Conservatory supplied Scriabin with a lifetime of friendships, more friends than he had ever known before. One group of intimates nicknamed him "Kitten," "Kitty" or "Pussycat" (kiska, kiski, kisynka), because of his feminine or feline ways, but it was said without malice. The most brilliant pianist of all was the ethereal and willowy Vsevolod Buyukly. Scriabin was particularly close to Nikolai Averino. He was influenced early in his life by the works of Frédéric Chopin.
Scriabin was quite short and considered effeminate. During his lifetime Scriabin was never regarded as particularly masculine, even though he was a habitual womaniser and assaulter of young girls. During the turn of the century he had a very close relationship with his music publisher. Faubion Bowers, in the 1996 edition of his biography of Scriabin, wrote “to impute homosexuality – latent, passive or ultimately triumphed over, as it was in Scriabin’s case, in my opinion – still it would be recreant to shirk a rather homosexual interpretation of Scriabin’s life. Incontrovertible proof cannot now be dredged up from the past, but so many symptoms there seem to be”. Robert Craft (Igor Stravinsky’s biographer) refers to Scriabin as “emotionally hermaphrodite”, and a handful of other historians openly label Scriabin as bisexual.
In 1907, Scriabin settled in Paris with his family and was involved with a series of concerts organized by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who was actively promoting Russian music in the West at the time. He relocated subsequently to Brussels (rue de la Réforme 45) with his family.
In 1909 he returned to Russia permanently, where he continued to compose, working on increasingly grandiose projects. For some time before his death he had planned a multi-media work to be performed in the Himalaya Mountains, that would cause a so-called "armageddon," "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world." Scriabin left only sketches for this piece, Mysterium, although a preliminary part, named L'acte préalable ("Prefatory Action") was eventually made into a performable version by Alexander Nemtin. Part of that unfinished composition was performed with the title 'Prefatory Action' by Vladimir Ashkenazy in Berlin with Aleksei Lyubimov at the piano. Nemtin eventually completed a second portion ("Mankind") and a third ("Transfiguration"), and his entire two-and-a-half-hour completion was recorded by Ashkenazy with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin for Decca. Several late pieces published during the composer's lifetime are believed to have been intended for Mysterium, like the Two Dances Op. 73.
Scriabin gave the final concert of his lifetime on 2 April 1915 in St. Petersburg, performing a large program of his own works. He received rave reviews from music critics such as Ossovsky, who called his playing "most inspiring and affecting", as well as Ellen von Tiedeböhl, who proclaimed "his eyes flashed fire and his face radiated happiness". Scriabin himself wrote that during his performance of his Third Sonata, "I completely forgot I was playing in a hall with people around me. This happens very rarely to me on the platform." Scriabin returned triumphantly to his apartment in Moscow on 4 April, when he noticed a resurgence of a little pimple on his upper right lip. He had mentioned the pimple as early as 1914 while in London. His temperature rose, he took to bed and cancelled his Moscow concert for 11 April. The pimple became a pustule, then a carbuncle and again a furuncle. Scriabin's doctor remarked that the sore looked "like purple fire". His temperature shot up to 41 °C (106 °F) and he was now bed-ridden. Incisions were made on 12 April, but the sore had already begun to poison his blood, and the composer became delirious. Bowers writes: "intractably and inexplicably, a simple spot had grown into a terminal ailment." On 14 April 1915, at the age of 43 and at the height of his career, Scriabin died in his Moscow apartment, on the same day his lease expired.
Scriabin was one of the most innovative and most controversial of early modern composers. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia said of Scriabin that "no composer has had more scorn heaped on him or greater love bestowed." Leo Tolstoy described Scriabin's music as "a sincere expression of genius." Scriabin had a major impact on the music world over time, and influenced composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Karol Szymanowski. However, Scriabin's importance in the Russian and then Soviet musical scene, and internationally, drastically declined after his death. According to his biographer Bowers, "No one was more famous during their lifetime, and few were more quickly ignored after death." Nevertheless, his musical aesthetics have been reevaluated since the 1970s, and his ten published sonatas for piano have been increasingly championed in recent years.
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