Alexander Scriabin 

Portrait of Alexander Scriabin

Alexander Scriabin was a late Romantic Russian composer and virtuoso pianist. He was born on 6th January 1872 in Moscow, Russia and died on 14th April 1915 in Moscow, aged 43.

Major Works

Piano Concerto (1896)
Symphony No. 1 (1900)
Symphony No.3 (1905)
Symphonic Poem “Poem of Ecstasy” (1908)
“Prometheus: The Poem of Fire” (1911)

Biography Timeline

Aleksandr Scriabin was born on 6th January 1872 in Moscow, Russia. His father Nikolai Aleksandrovich Scriabin was a student at the time of his birth and from a noble family. His mother, Lyubov Petrovna Schetinina, was a concert pianist. He was educated at local schools.

1873: His mother dies of tuberculosis. His father studies the Turkish language in the Institute of Oriental Languages in St Petersburg and thereafter moved to Turkey and becomes a military attaché. Scriabin is brought up by his grandmother and aunts. The young boy is fascinated by the piano even to the extent of building his own.

1882: He enters the Moscow Cadet School but continues taking piano lessons. He does well academically but is exempted from drill practice due to his frail physique.

1888: He enters the Moscow Conservatory and studies the piano under V.I. Safonov and composition with Sergey Taneyev and Anton Arensky. He damages his right hand whilst practising a particularly difficult piece by Franz Liszt and although the doctors said he will never recover he eventually does. He writes his Piano Sonata No.1. 

1892: He graduates from the Conservatory with the Little Gold Medal in piano performance, but does not complete a composition degree because of differences with Arensky.

1894: He makes his debut as a pianist in St. Petersburg receiving good reviews. The publisher Mitrofan Velyayev agrees to publish some of his compositions.

1896: He composes his Piano Concerto.

1897: In August he marries the pianist Vera Ivanovna Isakovich and then tours Russia and further afield. He goes on to have four children with her and three by another wife.

1898: He holds successful concerts in Paris and later becomes a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. He writes a cycle of etudes and preludes.

1900: He becomes interested in mystical philosophy and is influenced the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and the music of Richard Wagner. He also dabbles in Theosophy and reads the writings of Helena Blavatsky. He composes his Symphony No. 1 which contains a choral finale.

1901: He has ideas for writing an opera but this never materialises. The Poem Op. 32 and the Poème Tragique Op. 34 were originally conceived as arias for the opera. 

1902: Symphony No. 2 is first performed in St Petersburg on 12th January.

1903: He finishes teaching at the Moscow Conservatory.

1904: He settles in Geneva, Switzerland and devotes himself to composition and works on Symphony No. 3. which is first performed a year later in Paris. He legally separates from his wife.

1905: He begins writing “Le Poème de l’Extase”. (The Poem of Ecstasy). He remarries to the pianist Tatiana Fyodorovna. Schlözer.

1906: He tours the United States.

1907: He becomes friendly with the Canadian composer Alfred La Liberte who is influenced by his music. Later in the year he moves to Paris and gives concerts there organised by Sergei Diaghilev and then moves on to Brussels, Belgium.

1908: The “Poem of Ecstasy” is first performed and he joins the theosophical circles in Brussels.

1909: He is encouraged to return to Russia by the conductor Serge Koussevitzky. He begins work on a grand multimedia work entitled “Mysterium” but only sketches are completed. The introductory section “L’Acte Préalable” (Prefatory Action) is eventually made into a performable version by Alexander Nemtin.

1911: He composes “Prometheus: The Poem of Fire” which stipulates the projection of colours onto a screen during performance.

1914: He gives performances in London, England.

1915: He gives his last concert on 2nd April in St Petersburg receiving very good reviews from the critics. He returns to his Moscow apartment on 4th April and notices a pimple on his lip. His temperature begins to rise and he has to cancel all further concerts as it gets worse and he becomes bedridden. Doctors try to remove the lump on the 12th but it has already poisoned his blood and he becomes delirious. 

Aleksandr Scriabin died of sepsis on 27th April 1915 at home in Moscow. His funeral was attended by so many people that tickets had to be issued. Sergei Rachmaninoff was a pallbearer and carried out a later concert tour of Russia of the composer’s music for the family’s benefit.

Further Information

List of compositions by Scriabin.