Friday, April 24, 2015

My Half-Hour With Scriabin...

A few months after my being appointed to the faculty of the Longy School of Music, a period of spreading interest in the life and music of the great mystic Alexander Scriabin developed among the music colleges of the universities in the Boston area; including, of course, the two two major conservatories.
 The Director of the Longy School, Nicholas Van Slyck, called me into his office one day and asked me if there was a way to portray, in a one half hour radio program, the unprecedented metamorphosis of Scriabin, from his Chopin Period to his final destination, the Mystic Period. I was a bit taken aback by his question, as I thought that a period of about 24 minutes of performance time would be much too short a slot of time  to efficiently portray the incredible transition the Russian genius underwent.
And so I asked Van Slyck if I could have a few days to think this issue over. I remember rather clearly how quickly the answer came to me - why not look over the Preludes, all of which are brief, to see if  a 24 minute program could be organized?
In just a few days, I had amassed a selection of about eight or nine of the preludes that would begin with a few of his early creations, then add a couple or so of the transitional representatives, and end with some of his quartal and quintal  masterpieces of the Mystic Period.
To learn, then play them in a radio recital gave to me  one of the most comprehensive ways I have ever experienced of  getting through the front door of  an  edifice built by one of the great creative minds of his time.
What if penicillin had been there in 1915, when a boil appeared on Scriabin's mouth and killed him in just a few days? What if he had lived on another generation? Would there have  been a Rachmaninoff, as we know him? Or an extended period of a language that was not to be, as it  turned out?
One can only speculate.

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