Alexander Scriabin

A friend and fellow student of Rachmaninov in Moscow, the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin enjoyed a different and much shorter career, at first as a concert pianist. He started to compose regularly in the late 1890's, and in 1903, Scriabin would start his development of his highly personal musical idiom, including new harmonic structures and sonorities.

By 1905, his interest in philosophy and the theosophical theories of Madame Blavatsky influenced the form of his later compositions, particularly that of the larger-scale orchestral works.Previously influenced by Nietzsche's ideas about the advent of a superhuman being, Scriabin embraced theosophy as an intellectual framework for his profound feelings about humankind's quest for God. Works from this period, exemplified by the Poem of Ecstasy (1908) and Prometheus (1910), reflect Scriabin's conception of music as a bridge to mystical ecstasy. While the ideas underlying his works may seem far-fetched, Scriabin's musical language included some fascinating, and very tangible, innovations, such as chords based on fourths and unexpected chromatic effects.

Scriabin, a documented synesthete, had a deep connection with sound and color. Often his compositions would include detailed lighting instructions for performances, relating tonal centers or melodic ideas to specific colors. While Scriabin never quite crossed the threshold to atonality, his music nevertheless replaced the traditional concept of tonality by an intricate system of chords, some of which  had an esoteric meaning. His "mystic chord", comprised of the notes C-F sharp-B flat-E-A-D, is a great example of this and can be heard in many of his later piano works (e.g. Piano Sonata No. 9, "Black Mass"). 

In 1915, Scriabin died in of septicemia caused by a carbuncle on his lip. Among his unfinished project was Mysterium, a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world.