Alexander SCRIABIN
25 December 1871 - 27 April 1915 (age 43)

Scriabin was an eccentric Russian composer, virtuoso pianist and mystic. Best known for his piano works he was a fellow student of Rachmaninoff.




A short biography


Portrait of Scriabin


Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin - also written as Skriabin, Skryabin or Skrjabin.
Born: Moscow, 25 Dec 1871 (Julian/Gregorian calendar)
or 6 January with the modern calendar
Father. military aristocrat
Mother: concert pianist. Died when he was 1. Brought up by grandmother and aunts.
Siblings: father remarried - several half brothers and sisters
1st wife: Vera Ivanova Isakovich, pianist, they divorced.
2nd wife : Tatiana de Schloezer
Children: 4 with Vera, 3 with Tatiana
Died:  27 April 1915.
Cause of death: Blood poisoning from a septic pimple on upper lip, probably caused while shaving.
Grave: Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow   see findagrave


3 Symphonies
The Divine Poem
The Poem of Ecstasy
Prometheus: The Poem of Fire
1 piano concerto
Luce - clavier à lumières
10 piano sonatas
85 preludes
hundreds of piano pieces- preludes, etudes and poems
Fantasy for piano and orchestra
Egoroff Variations
Caresse Danse
Satanic Poem
Prefatory ActionMystery


The Man

He was a small man, just over 5ft tall.
He also had small hands, only just able to cover a 9th on the keyboard.
He had an effeminate manner which he blamed on being brought up surrounded by women.
He was also quite arrogant and bad mannered, an example of "Napoleon Complex" according to some.
Mentally he was very eccentric.
At times he thought he was God (being born on Christmas Day reinforced this delusion) and once he tried to walk on water on Lake Geneva and preached to the fishermen.


Scriabin was affected by a neurological phenomenon known as synesthesia by which different notes stimulate the perception of different colours. This had an influence on his music.

He developed a 'clavier à lumières' or 'tastiéra per luce' (keyboard with lights) for his composition 'Prometheus - Poem of Fire' which was performed in New York in 1915.
Owing to the difficult technical requirements it is seldom performed with the colour effects, but here is a video of a 2009 performance by the Moscow National Orchestra.

Prometheus, Poem of Fire, Finale.

Yuja Wang plays Selections for Solo Piano


- "I am God! I am nothing, I'm play, I am freedom, I am life. I am the boundary, I am the peak."

- "My Tenth Sonata is a sonata of insects. Insects are born from the sun...they are the sun's kisses...How unified world-understanding is when you look at things this way,"

- “In love's godlike breathing, there's the innermost aspect of the universe.”

A short biography

Age 4: started to learn the piano
Age 8: Wrote opera 'Lisa' dedicated to his childhood sweetheart.
Age 10-18: Trained as a soldier at the Moscow Cadet School where he also had piano lessons from Rachmaninoff's teacher.
Age 18: Began studies at the Moscow Conservatory.
Age 20: While at the Conservatory he injured his right hand through over-practicing. He then turned to composition but did not complete the composition course because of strong differences in taste and personality with his tutor Anton Arensky.
As a result of his hand injury many of his compositions make the left hand work hard.
Age 21: Graduated from the Conservatory with minimum results. Then spent the next two years "socialising" (drinking and womanising).
Age 23: Gave his first concert performance, in St.Petersburg. He then launched himself on an international tour giving successful performances in Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy.
Age 26: Married Vera Isakovich, also a pianist. She sometimes performed with him. Her personality however was very different from that of her husband.
Age 27 - 32: Taught piano at the Moscow Conservatory. He was not a great teacher however and was very critical of composers like Beethoven, Brahms and Mendelssohn.
Age 32: Decided to leave teaching and to leave his wife and four children. He went off on a European tour with Tatyana, a young admirer of his who he eventually married when Vera eventually granted him a divorce.
Age 32 - 37: With Tatyana

Symphony No. 4 "The Poem of Ecstasy"
version of Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony 

Etude for the Left Hand alone

Links - and where to go for more information 

Russian Composers: more profiles here at

Russiapedia - Prominent Russians -Scriabin


Scriabin Society of America

Classic Net

The Piano Society article

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