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Classical Composers A-Z: Alexander Scriabin

Peter Wintersgill presents a potted biography of the Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin.

Born
6th January, 1872, in Moscow.

Father
Nicholai, lawyer in Foreign Service.

Mother
Brilliant pianist, died when Alexander was only one year old.

Family
Only child, brought up by spinster aunt and other female relatives. Grew up as rather a sissy.

Childhood
Went to Moscow Cadet School aged 11. He wrote his first piano piece - a canon in D minor- aged 13.

Adolescence
Entered Moscow Conservatoire aged 16 in 1888. Was taught the piano by Safonov and composition by Taneyev and Arensky.

As he was only five feet tall and rather effeminate, he was called Pussy.

Early Adult Life
He was noticed to be a fine pianist by a publisher called Belayev, who sponsored his tour of Europe, playing his own piano works. He married Vera in 1897, which he soon regretted; they parted after seven years.
He was Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire from 1898-1903. He then settled in Switzerland with the aid of a grant from an ex-pupil. His early works included the First three piano sonatas (1892-1897), the piano concerto (1898) and the early preludes.

He was influenced in his early works by Chopin, whom he greatly admired. Then came the first symphony (1891) with chorus, and the second symphony (1901).

Later Adult Life
From this time onward he immersed hiunself in theosophist philosophy and mysticism, which affected his works. He made use of a system of chords based on fourths.

He was helped by the conductor Koussevitsky, who toured Russia with him in 1910 and helped to popularise his works. All his works from this time on showed signs of great emotion, becoming at times almost ecstatic. He tried to synthesize the arts and also the senses - to appreciate smells, tastes and colours through his music.

In 1903 he divorced Vera and married Tatyana, who bore him three children.

Among his later works were Divine Poem (1905), Poem of Ecstacy (1908), the White Mass (1911), Prometheus, the Poem of Fire (1910), also more piano works.

The premiere of Prometheus was given in London by Sir Henry Wood.

His father, whom he had seldom seen, died in 1914. He himself died on 27th April, 1915, in Moscow from septicaemia arising from a septic spot on his lip.

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