Towards 'The Mystery’
An evening of music and words to mark the centenary
of the death of Alexander Skryabin
By Simon Nicholls
Alexander Skryabin, Russian pianist and composer, was born 25th December 1871 (old style)/6th January 1872 and died unexpectedly 14th April (old style)/27th April 1915. In this relatively short life-span his music underwent an unprecedented development, reaching the borders of tonality and pointing to developments far in the future. Along with this went the growth of a world-view which convinced the composer that he had a mission to bring about a new era by means of a vast multi-media work which he called ‘The Mystery’. Only a preparatory work, the ‘Preliminary Action’, was sketched. The development of Skryabin’s thought was chronicled in private notebooks which were published in Russian in 1919.
Simon Nicholls is a pianist and teacher, now working at Birmingham Conservatoire, who has made a study of Skryabin involving many visits to Russia in order to read the original sources and to discuss the music with Russian experts. He will be reading from letters and private notebooks of Skryabin, discussing some origins of Skryabin’s thought, and playing selections of the music, starting with works from early youth and ending with fragments from the sketches for the ‘Preliminary Action’ and a sequence of the late pieces associated with it.
Skryabin: Notebooks, translated by Simon Nicholls and Michael Pushkin and with an introduction by Simon Nicholls and a preface by Vladimir Ashkenazy, is scheduled for publication during 2015.