Aleksandr Scriabin Biography

(One of the Most Controversial Composer-Pianists of the Early 20th Century)

Birthday: December 25, 1871 (Capricorn)

Born In: Moscow, Russia

Esoteric, imaginative, and idiosyncratic, Aleksandr Scriabin’s contribution to the world of music is peerless. A mystic and an eccentric, Scriabin’s music and his problems were a result of his philosophical ideas. He was a person with diverse visions and was considered one of the main Russian symbolist composers because of his unusual harmonies. The amalgam of colors, textures and sound in his compositions is what set him and his music apart from others. Scriabin’s music contained eroticism although he preferred to refer to it as ‘ecstasy’. He claimed that the end of the world would in fact be a universal orgy. Such was the thinking of this eccentric virtuoso. A mystical musician with spiritual influences, Aleksandr developed and experimented with original musical structures and harmonies. Scriabin was amongst the most innovative and most controversial composers of his time. His earlier works were romantic melodies. IN contrast, his later compositions reached different harmonies. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia extolled Scriabin by remarking, "No composer has had more scorn heaped or greater love bestowed...”

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin

Died At Age: 43


Spouse/Ex-: Tatiana Fyodorovna Schlözer, Vera Ivanovna Isakovich

father: Nikolai Scriabin

mother: Lyubov Scriabina

children: Ariadna Scriabina, Julian Scriabin

Born Country: Russia

Pianists Composers

Died on: April 14, 1915

place of death: Moscow, Russia

Notable Alumni: Moscow Conservatory

Cause of Death: Sepsis

City: Moscow, Russia

More Facts

education: Moscow Conservatory

  • 1

    What is the significance of Alexander Scriabin in music history?

    Alexander Scriabin was a Russian composer and pianist known for his innovative and mystical approach to music. He is considered a key figure in the transition from Romanticism to Modernism in classical music.

  • 2

    What are some key characteristics of Alexander Scriabin's music?

    Alexander Scriabin's music is known for its lush harmonies, colorful orchestration, and complex textures. He often employed innovative harmonic structures and experimented with synesthesia, aiming to create a total work of art that would appeal to multiple senses.

  • 3

    How did Alexander Scriabin's music influence later composers?

    Alexander Scriabin's innovative use of harmony and form had a significant impact on later composers, particularly in the development of atonal and serial music. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky were influenced by Scriabin's explorations of new musical language.

  • 4

    What is the relationship between Alexander Scriabin's music and his philosophical beliefs?

    Alexander Scriabin was deeply influenced by mysticism and Theosophy, and his music often reflects his philosophical beliefs. He saw music as a means of spiritual transcendence and sought to create a mystical experience for both performers and listeners through his compositions.

  • 5

    How did Alexander Scriabin's piano playing style influence his compositions?

    Alexander Scriabin was a virtuoso pianist, and his piano playing style had a significant impact on his compositions. He often wrote music that showcased the expressive capabilities of the piano, incorporating intricate textures and demanding technical passages that reflected his own pianistic abilities.

Childhood & Early Life

Aleksandr Scriabin was born Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin, on December 25, 1871, in Moscow, Russian Empire. Born into a noble Russian family to Nikolai Aleksandrovich Scriabin and Lyubov Petrovna Scriabina, Aleksandr was born into a family with a history of serving in the military

Aleksandr’s father was studying at the Moscow State University around the time when he was born. Soon after Aleksandr was born, his mother was diagnosed with a lung infection. She passed away shortly after. Nikolai resumed his law studies following his wife’s demise and Aleksandr was mostly raised by his grandmother and aunt. His aunt had denounced the family life of her own and dedicated herself to take care of Aleksandr

While Aleksandr’s father had no inclination towards art or music, his mother was a gifted and hugely successful pianist, who was known to compose her own songs and perform in the concerts. Aleksandr picked up the love for piano from his mother and by the age of 3, he could pick out the melody on piano with just one finger. Following his law studies, his father joined the diplomatic service and moved to Turkey, and took his son with him.

By the time he was 8 years old, he had begun playing the piano like a pro. In 1882, at the age of 10, he joined the Russian cadet corps. He was good at gymnastics and also played the piano for his peers and teachers. At the Moscow School of Cadets, Aleksandr studied science and languages. However, he also kept playing the piano throughout his years in the school, from 1882 to 1888.

In 1888, he began training under the acclaimed pianist Sergei Taneyev at the Moscow Conservatory. He graduated in 1892 and later became a professor at the same conservatory

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In 1894, Aleksandr made his debut as a professional pianist in St. Petersburg and played his original works. He received critical acclaim for his first attempts and gained a lot of attention. A big-shot music publisher Mitrofan Belyayev hired Aleksandr to play for his company. In 1897, he embarked on his first international tour and played his original tunes across many European cities. His final performance of the tour was held in Paris in 1898.

By then, he was married and in order to go for a more settled life, he became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, where he taught piano. Around that time, in the late 1800s, he composed some of his most famous works, such as the cycle of études, Op. 8, along with several sets of preludes. His first three piano sonatas, and his only piano concerto, were also composed during that time, among other works.

For the next five years, he stayed back in Moscow and made most of his career from there. During all this time, his reputation kept increasing.

By 1904, he had shifted with his family to Switzerland and for the next few years, he worked and lived in Western Europe. He also made frequent trips to America and played in many successful concerts there. He had become an internationally renowned pianist with his successful original compositions. Most of his musical endeavours were funded by a wealthy Russian businessman who was a big admirer of Aleksandr. In 1907, he eventually relocated to Brussels.

In 1905, he played his masterpiece Symphony No. 3 in Paris for the first time. It was met with huge critical acclaim.

In the 1900s, he also became deeply engrossed in studying literature and philosophy. He studied metaphysics and oriental physics. He was also a keen student of Newton’s theories. His newfound influences also showed in his works. In September 1904, he took a close interest in the International Philosophical Congress. Aleksandr’s notes have been recovered from the event, which shed light on his idealistic bent of mind and his deeply philosophical views about the nature of consciousness. It was never proven that he actually attended the event, but his notes prove that he was hugely interested in it.

In 1906, he published his poetry book titled Poem of Ecstasy. This is another book where Aleksandr ponders upon the idea of consciousness and its relation to physical phenomena. In 1908, his poetry book won the Glinka Prize.

In 1908, his first piano roll recordings were made. He was a composer who came up with many creative ways to fulfil his artistic goals. He is known to be the first composer to use light and colour in his musical notations. His personal music language was highly atonal and dissonant, which represented his metaphysics leanings. He used the notation for Luxe, a multicolour light projector, in his epic Prometheus: The Poem of Fire. The lighting was controlled by Aleksandr himself as he played on a piano with colour codes

In the early 1910s, he performed in New York and Moscow in a first-ever lighting show where the colours accompanied the musical notes, and projected on a big screen. He also developed a ‘synthesis of art’, a theory that went on to have a great influence in the world of films and theatre.

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In the mid-1910s, he began working on his big project called Mysterium, which aimed at uniting mankind through art, through a mix of music, acting, lighting and the interaction between the performer and the audience. For the project, he even decided to work on a seven-day long composition to be played on the foothills of the Himalayas. The composition would have especially included the sunset and the sunrise as a part of his grand performance. He even wrote a few fragments, but he passed away before he could finish it.

Since the 1910s, his symphonies are being played in concerts around the world with a grand light and colour accompaniment. His sonatas, preludes, etudes and poems are still known to be some of the best pieces of art the world has ever witnessed.

Personal Life & Death

Aleksandr Scriabin married a young pianist named Vera Ivanovna Isakovich, in August 1897. He had four children with her. However, in a few years, the couple separated.

He started an affair with his former pupil named Tatiana Fyodorovna Schloezer. With her, he had three children. He stayed with her until his demise.

He was a hypochondriac almost all his life.

He performed his final concert in April 2015 in Moscow. Shortly after that, he became bedridden with a high fever caused by an infection from a small boil on his lip. He never recovered and passed away on April 14, 1915. He was 43 years old at the time of his demise and at the very peak of his career

Facts About Aleksandr Scriabin

Scriabin had synesthesia, a rare condition where one sense triggers another, allowing him to see colors and shapes while hearing music. This unique ability greatly influenced his compositions and artistic vision.

Scriabin was known for his unconventional and innovative approach to music, often incorporating elements of mysticism and spirituality in his works. He believed that music had the power to transcend physical reality and connect with higher spiritual realms.

Scriabin's compositions often featured complex harmonies and intricate textures, pushing the boundaries of traditional tonality and paving the way for future generations of composers to explore new musical possibilities.

Scriabin was a talented pianist and virtuoso performer, known for his expressive playing and passionate interpretations of his own works. His piano music remains an important part of the repertoire for pianists around the world.

Scriabin's ambitious and visionary project, the "Mysterium," was intended to be a grand multimedia spectacle that would combine music, dance, lights, and scents in a transcendent experience for the audience. Though the project was never realized in his lifetime, its grandiose vision reflects Scriabin's bold and imaginative spirit.

See the events in life of Aleksandr Scriabin in Chronological Order

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