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Scriabin, an acquired taste
#3012627 08/11/20 10:36 AM
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Do you find this to be true?

For so many years I've only liked his Etude op.2, No. 1 and many of his pieces were either boring to me, or even offensively chaotic and atonal. It's maybe the last year or so that I started opening to his music and I gradually went to liking his early opuses up to op.11 which isn't a small volume of music. I clearly remember hearing the Valse, op.38 played by my favorite pianist Evgeni Bozhanov and that piece sounded disjointed to me, not atonal but just without much logic... Well, it just happened naturally but I found myself getting mad about this Valse later, I memorized it and I play it regularly now and find it very logical, coherent and beautiful! And I also found myself listening to most of his middle period works up to sonata No.5 Op.53, yet I couldn't grasp at all later works and they simply put me off. And that was just months ago. However I was already getting fascinated with Scriabin and because I was actively listening to a huge amount of works (early and middle period), I also listened unintentionally to later works because they were part of the CD-s. I would sometimes skip them but other times would keep them playing. And magically, as of today, I can practically listen to all of his works and not just tolerate them but even love them! And pieces that I simply rejected before, such as e.g. Vers la flamme, Op.72 is now something I can't stop listening to shocked I am in absolute awe of Scriabin and I think he has already replaced Chopin for the first place in my heart! I can't believe this is happening though. If somebody told me a year ago that I would like these "clanks" I would have laughed.

Has this happened to any of you?

Last edited by CyberGene; 08/11/20 10:37 AM.

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Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3012645 08/11/20 11:23 AM
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That very thing happened to me. It took a long time. For ages, the only Scriabin I would listen to would be op 42 and earlier; that represented the boundary of my comfort zone.

As happens with so many people, we grow out of that. Scriabin strayed away from functional harmony, and over time, that became much more attractive than the IV-I stuff he and everyone before him were doing.

The 8th sonata has become the piece I listen to the most. There's a lot to learn there, and it's superbly constructed. For that matter, even his young stuff is very well-constructed. While his messages changed, he always maintained an outstanding level of craftsmanship.

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3012684 08/11/20 12:36 PM
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Probably that unconsciously you wanted to love him, and finally managed to find a way to like it. I dont know exactly where is my limit. Some pieces i like but mostly i dont. Principaly anybody that is composing music based on dodecaphonism even if non serial is of no interest for me. But of course if you have found your graal, i am happy for you.

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3012714 08/11/20 02:19 PM
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I think any composer can be an acquired taste for some people.

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
Sidokar #3012752 08/11/20 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Principaly anybody that is composing music based on dodecaphonism even if non serial is of no interest for me.

Do you mean atonalism? Because dodecaphony is a synonym for 12-tone serialism. Atonal is a vague term that encompasses many non-tonal genres including 12-tone serialism. Yet, Scriabin music is not even atonal in my opinion. I also can't stand typical atonal music. I believe his later works are a mix between tonal and atonal but it's closer to tonal IMO. I can even hear functional harmonies here and there in some of them. Anyway, to go back to the thread title, it's an acquired taste and I think his highly chromatic (yet tonal IMO) language is way too rich and makes the impression of highly atonal instead. This is like beer, or wine, or coffee where they use words such as "nuts, fruits, smoke", etc. to describe the taste and initially you would be: but that's just coffee/beer/wine! But once you become accustomed, you start feeling those subtle aromatic compounds beneath the overwhelmingly complex taste. Something like that with Scriabin and I'm not saying I love every single work up to the last one smile But it's a very steady progress I didn't even expect.

Last edited by CyberGene; 08/11/20 04:10 PM.

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Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3012887 08/12/20 01:28 AM
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It happened to me, too. I remember that 10 years ago I just could not bear most of Scriabin's music. And now it seems that I like it a lot, even more than Rachmaninoff's, and that is very surprising to me.

There was a pianist (he is not known internationally) who's opened up Scriabin's music to me, I doubt that I could start appreciating it without him. I mean it's so extremely important to meet the interpretation at some point in life, and often it's just a lucky chance. smile

Last edited by Iaroslav Vasiliev; 08/12/20 01:33 AM.
Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
pianoloverus #3012911 08/12/20 02:30 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think any composer can be an acquired taste for some people.

Yes, and taste changes over time. The music I like now, with one or two exceptions, is not that which moved me when young. It isn't so much a case of specific composers but rather certain musical features. In my youth I didn't like anything sounding remotely modern, but then I began to realise my improvisation contained many modern features. This led to a systematic broadening of my listening and the expansion is still happening. In contrary fashion, I became tired of much of the common practice sound which enthralled me as a boy. The curious exceptions to change have been ragtime and stride, which seem to be enduring infatuations for me, and I haven't the slightest notion why.


"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3013073 08/12/20 02:22 PM
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I find Scriabin's music is a little more introverted, so it's not as obviously, readily appealing as his Russian compatriots. I think it makes sense that as you age, there are things you hear / notice in the music that you didn't pick up on before. I had the pleasure of playing Scriabin's Sonata No. 2 as an audition piece, and it challenged me in different ways than, say, Rachmaninoff. I couldn't hide behind the technical challenge or a catchy melody. This isn't to say that Rachmaninoff is ONLY technically difficult or flashy. I'm just saying the challenge of playing the two composers is different. Therefore, I think the challenge of listening to the two composers must differ as well.

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3013129 08/12/20 04:03 PM
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I've always liked Scriabin.

The first Scriabin I remember hearing was the set of etudes Op. 65. I found it irresistibly strange and exciting. This set is a great introduction to Scriabin's later sound world, which is presented in such a way that it's easy to "get".

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3013807 08/14/20 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
Do you find this to be true?

No, not for me. Scriabin's music was immediately appealing to me...even the late works -- and they became the first truly modern piano works that I appreciated. Exploring Scriabin's works, I felt like a kid in a candy store -- all the quirky originality in the piano writing and the complex rhythms and the colorful harmonies that, in retrospect, are essentially jazz harmonies -- decades before jazz musicians "discovered" them.

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
scriabinfanatic #3013906 08/14/20 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by scriabinfanatic
Originally Posted by CyberGene
Do you find this to be true?

No, not for me. Scriabin's music was immediately appealing to me...even the late works -- and they became the first truly modern piano works that I appreciated. Exploring Scriabin's works, I felt like a kid in a candy store -- all the quirky originality in the piano writing and the complex rhythms and the colorful harmonies that, in retrospect, are essentially jazz harmonies -- decades before jazz musicians "discovered" them.

That's very odd but yeah, we're all different smile Anyway, why I find it odd? I started with classical piano as a kid (I was a bachfanatic) then switched to jazz and was deeply involved with jazz for at least 15 years by reading many books on jazz harmony and improvisation, I played in amateur jazz bands, etc and later on switched back to classical music. With that jazz background in mind I think I agree with your comment about the similarities between Scriabin's harmonies and jazz and Scriabin using them much earlier than they started appearing in jazz. However that's mostly applicable to his early-middle period where he is apparently very fond of dominant chord extensions (as in jazz), as well as functional cadence configurations that are used in jazz, e.g. ii-V-I, tritone substitutions, etc. However his late period isn't much similar to jazz IMO, maybe only superficially by reminding an improvised music (and I have all the reasons to believe he was a good improviser and much of his music was born that way) but not so much harmonically or as thematic/imrpovisational development. I think Scriabin's late music is much more structured and follows a very individual and idiosyncratic approach that's (IMO and no offense to jazz fans) much more complex than jazz. Which is probably why it was not immediately appealing to me, hence the current thread. At least for me, I started appreciating his late music after some time.

But on the other hand I went from totally indifferent to his music to maybe a scriabinfanatic2 in just less than a year, which (taking in mind his relatively vast output) is almost the same as "a kid in the candy store" smile

Last edited by CyberGene; 08/14/20 04:12 PM.

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Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3014282 08/15/20 02:23 PM
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Since the 1960's when a landmark book "Garmoniya Skryabina" (Scriabin's Harmony) by Varvara Dernova was published, the system described in that book has been the generally accepted way of decoding Scriabin's late works. The system is based on altered dominant chords, chiefly with a flatted fifth (or enharmonically, an augmented fourth), and often with additional stacked tones (9ths, 11ths, 13ths), and even the flat-5 might be combined with perfect fifth and/or sharp 5. In jazz, this might be called a sharp-eleven chord, or an "alt" chord, depending. Look at the op. 32 Poem that you did such a nice job of playing -- it's has lots of those chords (including the very first chord!)...as well as six-nine chords and tritone substitutions, etc. But for the most part, in that middle-work, the dominant chords still act/resolve conventionally. As Scriabin's music continued evolving, he depended more and more on those altered dominants, but came to completely avoid V-I cadences, in order to keep the sense of tonality elusive. Typically his harmonies would move by tritone or minor third (tritone split in half) instead. So the dominant chord becomes like the "Tristan" chord...the sonority is still there, but it is broken free from its legacy use. Scriabin also used the diminished scale (alternating half and whole step scale), which is used in jazz to improvise over dominant minor 9th chords or diminished 7th chords. (for example in the 6th sonata)

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3014430 08/16/20 03:02 AM
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^ Completely agree with all that 👍🏻 I also find all of the mentioned devices present in Scriabin early-middle period (and can add to that the melodic minor scale which is commonly used over the interchangeable jazz-chords such as the alt chord, the 7#11, m7b5, maj7#5, m-maj7, etc.).

BTW, are you playing jazz? Seems like you explain very confidently this stuff and I believe that can happen only if one has applied them many times smile I have myself played and applied a lot of these in the past when I was mainly a jazz fan, but due to unknown reason (or maybe logical?) I totally lost interest in jazz and have been dedicated entirely to classical music for the last 5 years or more.


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Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3014582 08/16/20 01:07 PM
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Like you, I tried to learn jazz from books. I never found a book that worked for me though, so I finally broke down and enrolled in lessons with a local performing jazz pro who also had been a teacher for years. He identified what I needed to know most from Day One, and I learned quickly from there. It helped that I already knew music theory from college classes, and that I also knew how to play out of fake books because one of my previous piano teachers had encouraged me to do so. But after a semester of jazz lessons, I realized how much work and dedication it would take to become truly proficient at jazz improv, and I really wanted to get back to classical. So I considered my curiosity to be satisfied about jazz and moved on.

I hadn't noticed melodic minor in a Scriabin piece, can you point me out an example? I remember that in the week before one of my jazz lessons, I read the Mark Levine jazz piano book, which talks about modes of melodic minor, and particularly the scale you get from matching the fourth step of that scale to the root of a dominant chord to improvise over it. So I was able to impress my teacher by applying that "Lydian Dominant" scale to my improvisation for that week!

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
scriabinfanatic #3014619 08/16/20 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by scriabinfanatic
I hadn't noticed melodic minor in a Scriabin piece, can you point me out an example?

Well, it’s a bit implied and not very apparent but for instance in the Feuillet d’album, Op. 45, no. 1, another recording I made some time ago:


There’s for instance an Am7b5 chord in the second measure over which there’s the pure B which makes it a C melodic minor (C D Eb F G A B), also there’s the 14th measure where it’s even more outlined with an entire descending Ab melodic minor (only Db is missing) over a Fm7b5 and I think there are also a few partially implied melodic minor chord/mode things throughout.

Last edited by CyberGene; 08/16/20 03:38 PM.

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Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3014689 08/16/20 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
[...] Feuillet d’album, Op. 45, no. 1, another recording I made some time ago:


[...]

That was beautiful; thank you for sharing!

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3014695 08/16/20 07:22 PM
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I agree with Bruce: very beautiful, Gene 😊


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3014783 08/17/20 04:02 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
There’s for instance an Am7b5 chord in the second measure over which there’s the pure B which makes it a C melodic minor (C D Eb F G A B), also there’s the 14th measure where it’s even more outlined with an entire descending Ab melodic minor (only Db is missing) over a Fm7b5 and I think there are also a few partially implied melodic minor chord/mode things throughout.

Interesting observation on the op. 45/1...and beautifully played, thank you! Supporting your idea is the way that the "missing" Db conveniently occurs three times in measure 13, so that by measure 14, the ear is prepared to fill that note in, in place of the regular D-natural...and it's even a bit of a shock when D-natural returns as the first note in the bass in measure 15.

A book I have on Scriabin's music (The Music of Alexander Scriabin, by James Baker) devotes a few pages to analyzing that exquisite little piece. Much of it is Schenkerian...Ursatz this and Urlinie that. But he also talks about how cadences to the tonic in the piece are weakened in one way or another. For example, in the first one it ends in a weak first-inversion tonic (measure 3) not root position. Then in the measure 8-9 cadence, when you get to the tonic, "the expected bass support is suppressed." Then in measures 13-16 you get a nice circle-of-fifths progression starting with relative dominant of the two chord, then "In measures 15-16, V7 cadences to a complete tonic triad which is not yet fully stable, weakened by displacement of the triadic notes by unessential dissonances until the triad is heard in pure form but in first inversion at the end of the measure." Then at the end of the piece, you don't even get a tonic chord...just a single note. The author doesn't say it, but to me it seems that these weakened cadences could be viewed as a sort of transition to the later works where he doesn't give you any cadences at all. He increasingly likes to make that tonic tantalizingly fuzzy/ethereal.

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3015624 08/19/20 02:51 PM
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Scriabin is my 3rd love after Chopin and Rachmaninov, on pair with Ravel, Liszt and few others. His music is deeply emotional from start to the very end. His Preludes are gems. Sonatas are wild and deep and tragic. Everything is there.

Re: Scriabin, an acquired taste
CyberGene #3015770 08/20/20 01:47 AM
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Originally Posted by CyberGene
This is like beer, or wine, or coffee where they use words such as "nuts, fruits, smoke", etc. to describe the taste and initially you would be: but that's just coffee/beer/wine! But once you become accustomed, you start feeling those subtle aromatic compounds beneath the overwhelmingly complex taste. Something like that with Scriabin.

This is one of the most interesting and spot-on descriptions I have read of this process:)


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
Arthur Schnabel

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