Piano Sonata No. 6 (Scriabin)
The Piano Sonata No. 6, Op. 62, by Alexander Scriabin was composed in 1911. Although it was named the sixth sonata, the piece was preceded by the Sonata No. 7. As it is one of the late piano sonatas of Scriabin's career, the music consists of a single movement, and is almost atonal. Scriabin reportedly never played the sonata in public, because he feared its darkness.
Structure and content
The piece consists of a single movement, typically lasting around 11–12 minutes, and is marked as follows:
- Modéré: mystérieux, concentré
The mood of the piece is marked "mystérieux" by the composer, but most striking are the sudden moments of horror that interrupt its dreamlike atmosphere, explicitly marked "l'épouvante surgit" (surge of terror) by Scriabin. The final passages are colourful and languid, like an elaborate Debussy prelude, but darker forces are released at the end. Richard Strauss' Elektra chord is featured in the sonata, lending it a nightmarish quality that Scriabin's mystic chord could not provide alone.
According to Scriabin's biographer, Faubion Bowers, “The Sixth Sonata is a netherstar. Its dark and evil aspect embraces horror, terror, and the omnipresent Unknown. ‘Only my music expresses the inexpressible,’ Scriabin boasted, and called the Sixth’s sweet and harsh harmonies, “nightmarish… fuliginous… murky… dark and hidden… unclean… mischievous.’ When he played excerpts for friends, he would stare off in the distance away from the piano, as if watching effluvium rise from the floor and walls around him. He seemed frightened and sometimes shuddered.”
It is one of a few pieces Scriabin never played in public, because he felt it was "nightmarish, murky, unclean and mischievous". He often started shuddering after playing a few measures for other people.
- Scriabin: The Piano Sonatas (CD liner). Vladimir Ashkenazy. Decca. 1997. p. 6.CS1 maint: others (link)
- H. H. Stuckenschmidt; Piero Weiss. "Debussy or Berg? The Mystery of a Chord Progression", The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 3. (Jul., 1965), pp. 453-459.
- Hiroshima, Grant. "About the Piece: Sonata No. 6 in G Major" www.laphil.com. Music and Musicians Database. 2015.
- Leonid Sabaneev (1925/2005). Erinnerungen an Alexander Skrjabin. Verlag Ernst Kuhn. German. ISBN 3-928864-21-1
- Scriabin, Alexander. Complete Piano Sonatas. 1964 Muzyka score republished in 1988 by New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-25850-5. The sixth sonata occupies pages 114-140.
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