Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Scriabin

Dr. Bob Prescribes Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 5

Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915) composed a total of ten numbered piano sonatas in the 21 years between 1892 and 1913. He composed, as well, an “unnumbered” piano sonata in E-flat minor in 1889, when he was 18 years old. These eleven piano sonatas form a virtual musical diary, and as such map Scriabin’s extraordinary artistic trajectory from the time he was a student at the Moscow Conservatory to the end of his all-too-short life, by which time he was no small bit loony (looners?).  As we observed in yesterday’s Music History Monday post, which celebrated the 148th anniversary of Scriabin’s birth, the man went through an early mid-life crisis in 1902 at the age of 30 that makes buying a Corvette and taking a girlfriend look like BUPKISS. He quit his teaching job, abandoned his wife and four children, took up with a former piano student of his named Tatiana Schloezer, immersed himself in an esoteric philosophy called “Theosophy”, and came to the conclusion that he was god. That’s what I call a mid-life crisis! Theosophy and Revelation The philosophy of “Theosophy” (I’m a poet and I’m unaware of the fact) that Scriabin went literally “crazy” over around 1902 considered visual […]

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Music History Monday: The Odd Person Out

On January 6, 1872 – 148 years ago today – the composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin was born in Moscow. He died in Moscow just 43 years later, on April 27, 1915. Scriabin was not just “the odd person out” of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Russian composers; he was, very arguably, one of the two or three “oddest-people-out” in the history of Western Music. Scriabin didn’t start out as an oddball. He was a piano prodigy and a friend and classmate of Sergei Rachmaninoff, first in the piano studio and private school of Nikolai Zverov and later at the Moscow Conservatory. When they graduated together in 1892 (at which point Rachmaninoff was nineteen and Scriabin was twenty), Rachmaninoff received the “Great Gold Medal” and Scriabin the “Little Gold Medal”, somehow appropriate given that Rachmaninoff stood 6’6” tall while Scriabin stood just over 5’ tall. (That variance of physical stature notwithstanding, the Moscow Conservatory Class of 1892 was pretty impressive!) Scriabin’s early career was not marked by any particular “oddness” either. He began his career as a touring pianist and composed charming piano miniatures a la Chopin. He married and quickly fathered four children. When he wasn’t on tour, he taught at the Moscow Conservatory. […]

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