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Alexander Skryabin

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Biography

Russian pianist and composer, b, Moscow 1872, d. Moscow 1915.

A prodigious pianist, Skryabin was also a composer of high regard until his untimely death from septicaemia in 1915. His early works drew heavily on his Eastern European forebears, in particular Chopin and Liszt, while his mature style manifested a strong Wagnerian influence.

Skryabin was a lifelong eccentric, and became preoccupied with theosophy and mysticism in his later life. He was also something of an inventor, and made early attempts to link musical tones to colour, even giving specific directions to this end in the score of his symphonic poem Prométhée, le Poème du Feu. A performance in 1994 by Oliver Knussen and the Residentie Orchestra of the Hague with pianist Håkon Austbø attempted to realise his ambitions by using a huge installation with giant projection screens and over 400 coloured lamps operated by a special keyboard.

His extra-musical considerations are often discussed at the expense of his genuine compositional prowess. In the generally accepted view, his work combines harmonic innovation with a predilection for traditional classical form.

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