Piano Sonata No. 7 (Scriabin)
The Piano Sonata No. 7, Op. 64, subtitled White Mass, was written by Alexander Scriabin in 1911. As one of the late piano sonatas of Scriabin's career, the music is highly chromatic and almost atonal.
The White Mass is closely related to its predecessor, the sixth sonata. Both works were written in 1911–12 and have structurally and stylistically more in common than any other pair of Scriabin sonatas. Scriabin reportedly feared the sixth sonata, considering the work to be corrupted by demonic forces and going so far as to refuse to play the work in public. Scriabin composed his seventh sonata as an exorcism against the darkness of the sixth sonata, subtitling the work White Mass in order to reflect its celestial nature. He intended the mood of the piece to be ecstatic, evoking images of winged flight, voluptuous rapture and overwhelming forces.
The composer was especially fond of the piece, probably due to its messianic context and perfected structure, which features more contrast, rhythmic and dynamic, than most of his work. Like the second sonata however, the White Mass gave him a great deal of trouble during its composition.
The White Mass Sonata is not structurally directly related to Scriabin's ninth sonata, which was composed in 1912–13 and would later earn the nickname Black Mass Sonata.
Structure and content
The piece consist of a single movement, lasting around 10–13 minutes, and is marked as follows:
Additional markings provide clues to the different moods Scriabin intended to convey throughout the work, such as "mystérieusement sonore", or "avec une sombre majesté". The sonata's recurrent harmony is first presented melodically by the theme marked "avec une céleste volupté". Like the sixth, the seventh sonata is full of violent contrasts, complex counterpoint, advanced tritonal harmonies, and rippling, incandescent arpeggios.
The chords imitating the ringing of bells were a favorite of Scriabin's. According to Leonid Sabaneyev, when Scriabin himself played these chords, the ringing sounded from near and afar at the same time; a part of them sounded very real, while another sounded like an echo.
The Allegro marking was added later by the publisher; the original tempo marking in Scriabin's hand at the top of the autograph score is "Prophétique".
The White Mass sonata is one of Scriabin's more advanced works. Notable Scriabin masters such as Vladimir Horowitz and Vladimir Sofronitsky did not play or record the piece, the latter due to superstition. However, Sviatoslav Richter performed it a number of times throughout his career, and played it on tours as late as 1994.
- (1994), Taub notes, p. 6
- (1997), Ashkenazy notes, p. 6
- Sabaneev (2005), p. 169
- "Alexander Scriabin: The Piano Sonatas". Scriabin: The Piano Sonatas (CD liner). Decca. 1997. pp. 5–7.
- "Scriabin: 10 Piano Sonatas". Scriabin: 10 Piano Sonatas (CD liner). Harmonia Mundi. 2005. pp. 4–7.
- Sabaneev, Leonid (2005) . Erinnerungen an Alexander Skrjabin. Berlin. ISBN 3-928864-21-1.
- Sonata No. 7 (Scriabin): Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Sonata no 7 performed by Jonathan Powell in Kiev, 30 March 2010