Alexander Scriabin

Piano Sonata No. 8, Op. 66

    Description by Donato Mancini

    Scriabin colorfully described parts of the eighth sonata as "the most tragic episode of my creative work." Scriabin shares a place with Mahler and early Berg in the epoch during which the late Romantic musical language was pushed to a feverish intensity. The sound world here is much like the early Expressionism of Berg's Opus 1 piano sonata. The Sonata No. 8 sticks out among Scriabin's late sonatas partly for what it lacks: there are no violent climaxes, and the dissonances are comparatively less harsh. What it shares with the others is a lack of a central key and a richly colored but essentially static harmonic language, charged to the breaking point with Scriabin's mystical longings. The work was written in 1912; Stravinsky called it "incomparable," but Scriabin did not return the favor, remarking that Stravinsky had only a "minimum of creativity." Like the composer's other late sonatas, it is in a single movement.

    The emphasis on vertical harmonies is part of the music's perceptible push towards a kind of mystical simultaneity -- the composer seems to lose patience with melody because it requires time to unfold. Scriabin understood that with the right chord you can force a lot of obsessions and feelings into a single intense moment, and seemed to be working toward a mystical point in his thinking where music would lose its temporal aspect.

    Hence one sometimes gets the sense here that the parts of the music are in conflict with each other. A motion which starts in the left hand often rises up against the right hand's melody, and the latter inevitably is shattered and overwhelmed. Because Scriabin is not using functional harmony, the sense of harmonic perspective is lost -- so that when the music gets extremely busy, as it often does, the whole blurs into a dense, churning, layered texture of motifs, chords, and ornaments all vying for the same space. The music is likewise full of the abundant, long trills that Scriabin favored; they swarm the music. They are simultaneous points of motion and stasis, like the panicked flutterings of trapped moths. After building up his heavy murky textures, Scriabin often strips the music down again abruptly , sometimes to a single, fading trill. In the last third of the work, he brightens up ironically for short, macabre, dance-like passages that are just as quickly washed away in the restless flux.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Decca
    2017 Somm SOMMCD 2622
    2016 Bridge BCD 9468
    2016 Melodiya MELCD 1002312
    2015 Profil PH 15007
    2015 Paraty PTY 915136
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2014 Acousence Classics ACOCD 12214
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94388
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Phaia Music PHU 01921
    2011 Naxos 8572440
    2011 Capriccio Phoenix / Capriccio Records 49586
    2010 Avi-Music / Cavi-music 8553195
    2008 Danacord 679
    2008 Arbiter ARBITER157
    2008 Camerata Records 28131
    2008 Audite 21402
    2008 Mirare 061
    2006 Classical Records 38
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946365332
    2005 Romeo Records 7232
    2005 Nonesuch
    2005 MDG 6041318
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 2907366
    2005 Calliope 3254
    2004 Calliope 9255
    2003 Brilliant 6137
    2003 Brilliant 99963
    2002 Vox 5184
    2001 Tudor Records 726
    2000 Telos 035
    1998 Angel Records 72652
    1997 Decca
    1997 London 452961
    1996 Nonesuch 73035
    1996 Hyperion 67131
    1995 Altarus 9020
    1994 Calliope 9692
    1994 Harmonia Mundi 907141
    1991 Harmonia Mundi 907041
    1990 Simax 1056
    1989 London 425579
    Music & Arts 865
    Brilliant 6137/2
    Music & Arts 621
    Decca 414353
    Arlecchino 119
    Russian Compact Disc (RCD) 16336