SCRIABIN: Mazurkas

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Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) Complete Mazurkas

Alexander Scriabin was a musicalvisionary, a genius, and an individualist with a strong, artistic voice, Bornin Moscow on 6th January, 1872, the son of an accomplished pianist, he beganmusic studies early, entering the Moscow Conservatory in 1888. There he studiedwith Safonov, Sergey Taneyev and Arensky, the last also Rachmaninov's teacher.

In 1892 the Moscow Conservatory awarded Scriabin their highest honour, a GoldMedal, for his achievement as a pianist. During this period he began composingpiano miniatures, which were published by Jurgenson and attracted the attentionof the foremost publisher in Russia, Belyayev, who decided to sponsor the youngmusician, give him a handsome contract for his compositions and subsidise atour for him as a piano virtuoso in programmes of his own works.

From 1898 to 1903, Scriabin taught thepiano at the Moscow Conservatory. Teaching, however, proved a painful chore tohim, and he resigned to devote his time to composition and piano recitals,abandoning Russia for Western Europe for some six years and in 1906 touring theUnited States with great success. During this period his compositions wereundergoing a radical change, largely owing to his increasing interest in mysticismand philosophy. In his Third Symphony, written in 1903, subtitled TheDivine Poem, he represented man's escape from the shackles of religion andof his own past in ecstatic and triumphant music. His last two completedorchestral works were The Poem of Ecstasy, music which he said depictedthe "ecstasy of unfettered action," and Prometheus' ThePoem of Fire, "For my part," he once declared, "Iprefer Prometheus or Satan, the prototype of revolt and individuality. Here Iam my own master. I want truth, not salvation." In Prometheus: ThePoem of Fire he described the omnipotence of the "creativewill." Scriabin died in Moscow on 27th April, 1915.

During his short life of 43 years,Scriabin wrote three symphonies, two symphonic poems, variations for stringquartet, a romance for French horn, a romance for voice, one piano concerto,and more than two hundred piano compositions. Among these piano works are the23 Mazurkas, spanning a creative period from 1884 to 1903.

The mazurka, also called mazur andmazurek, has its origin in a Polish national dance and can be traced asfar back as the sixteenth century .Its name came from the Palatinate of Mazoviaand its Mazur inhabitants, with their dance the mazurka, of which thereare several types and regional variations. Some are known as kujawiaks orobertas, but all stem from the archaic polska. In its originalform the mazurka was a folk dance-song, in 314 time, accented on thesecond beat, the accompaniment usually being provided by the singing andhand-clapping of the dancers. Mazurkas are often performed by four oreight couples, who are allowed a great deal of freedom in their choices ofsteps, Although of Polish origin, the mazurka was also, for many years,danced in all parts of Russia. A peculiar characteristic of many composed mazurkasis the use of a repeated bass pattern, suggesting the drone bass of aninstrument such as the hurdy-gurdy or bagpipe. Although many Polish and Russiancomposers at the end of the eighteenth century were writing mazurkas, itwas Chopin who developed the dance into an instrumental art form, as Lisztconfirmed: "The latent and unknown poetry, which was only indicated inthe original Polish Mazurkas, was divined, developed, and brought to light byChopin. Preserving their rhythm, he ennobled their melody, enlarged theirproportions and wrought into their tissues harmonic lights and shadows, as newin themselves as were the subjects to which he adapted them."

It was Chopin's highly pianistic mazurkasthat were the models for Russian composers. Beginning with Mikhail Glinka,Anton Rubinstein and Mili Balakirev, the Russian version of the keyboard mazurkadeveloped, with virtually every Russian composer of the nineteenth andearly twentieth century making their contribution, including Scriabin. Hisearliest experiments in the form seemingly date from 1884 and 1886, althoughsome sources indicate 1889 as the date of composition. The Mazurka in Bminor and the Mazurka in F major were written when Scriabin wastwelve or fourteen years old. Although pianistic and imaginative, in thesepieces Scriabin had not yet found his distinctive voice. The two mazurkas appearedin print in 1893, but were never assigned an opus number. Until the 1940s theyhad been excluded from the Scriabin catalogue, but were then published in anedition edited by the Russian pianist Konstantin Igumnov.

The Ten Mazurkas, Opus 3, werewritten between 1888 and 1890. At this time Scriabin was still an adolescent,but he was already finding something of the musical language so evident inlater works. The ten mazurkas were published in two volumes by Jurgensonin 1893. Starting with the very first mazurka in the set, the Mazurkain B minor, the first bar reveals a characteristic tendency. Virtually allbiographers of Scriabin dismiss these early works as under the influence ofChopin or Schumann. Although one may hear a harmonic turn or melodic phrasethat reminds one of these composers, Scriabin creates mazurkas that arefar more distinctive. Each one in the set is a poetic improvisation, full ofmagic and charm. The second, the Mazurka in F sharp minor, containsfresh modulations at each bar. The third, the Mazurka in G minor, isbrimming with melancholy, reminiscent of Chopin. The fourth, the Mazurka inE major, has a floating, graceful theme. The Mazurka in D sharp minor, thefifth in the collection, is contemplative and the melodic line is morecomplicated. There are definite glimpses of later Scriabin works in the shadowsof this innocent work. The sixth, the Mazurka in C sharp minor, isa curious, scherzo- like piece, with a pleading meno mosso section in Gsharp minor. Next is the Mazurka in E minor, full of passion and with anunforgettable descending musical line. The eighth, the Mazurka in B flatminor, contains dusty echoes of Chopin memories, almost dream-like, withpeculiar Scriabinesque glimpses. The ninth of the set, the Mazurka in G sharpminor, is regal and distinguished. Scriabin omits a tempo marking, but adeep melancholy pervades the work, despite some stormy interludes. The verycharming tenth Mazurka in E flat minor, is wistful and playful. Scriabinweaves a complex tapestry here, with a middle section full of pathos and moreglimpses of his developing musical characteristics.

The Nine Mazurkas, Opus 25, werewritten between 1898 and 1899 and published by Belyayev. They were composedduring the first year of Scriabin's professorship at the Moscow Conservatory.

Stylistically, he had now found a voice, having established himself with threepiano sonatas, the Twelve Etudes, Opus 8, and numerous distinctivepreludes. The opening Mazurka in F minor is very Romantic and has atempestuous beginning, lightened to some extent by a sunnier section, althoughthe work, as a whole is tense. The second, the Mazurka in C major, isreminiscent of the Sonata No.3 in F sharp minor, Opus 23. The third, theMazurka in E minor, marked lento, once again shows thecontemplative and improvisatory Scr
Item number 8553600
Barcode 730099460026
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Long, Beatrice
Long, Beatrice
Composers Scriabin, Alexander
Scriabin, Alexander
Disc: 1
Mazurka, B minor, Op. post No. 2
1 No. 1 in B minor: Tempo giusto
2 No. 2 in F sharp minor: Allegretto non tanto
3 No. 3 in G minor: Allegretto
4 No. 4 in E major: Moderato
5 No. 5 in D sharp minor: Doloroso
6 No. 6 in C sharp minor: Scherzando
7 No. 7 in E minor: Con passione
8 No. 8 in B flat minor: Con moto
9 No. 9 in G sharp minor
10 No. 10 in E flat minor: Sotto voce
11 No. 1 in D flat major: Allegro
12 No. 2 in F sharp major: Piacevole
13 No. 1 in F minor: Allegro
14 No. 2 in C major: Allegretto
15 No. 3 in E minor: Lento
16 No. 4 in E major: Vivo
17 No. 5 in C sharp minor: Agitato
18 No. 6 in F sharp major: Allegretto
19 No. 7 in F sharp minor: Moderato
20 No. 8 in B major: Allegretto
21 No. 9 in E flat minor: Mesto
22 No. 1 in F major: Vivace
23 No. 2 in B minor: Allegretto
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