Skrjabin’s Nocturne Op. 9

Alexsandr Nikolaevič Skrjabin (1872-1915) at the beginning of the Nineties was successfully building a career as a virtuoso piano player, although he already proved his talent as a composer (he wrote his first work at thirteen).

Unfortunately, in 1893 an illness made him unable to use the right hand – a condition very hard to endure. Only in 1895 he had the possibility to resume his career, but in the meantime he at least partly overcame the gloomy moods of that period writing two really challenging compositions for the left hand only: a Prélude and a Nocturne, that together form his Opus 9. A real tour de force for the daring pianist, the Nocturne in particular isn’t simply a showing of technical prowess, it’s also a turning point in his exploration of the music’s world. As Piero Rattalino wrote in his Storia del pianoforte [History of the piano], «It is possible to see the shift from conceptions of the sound that are still Chopinian-Henseltian, to Skrjabinian conceptions in the Nocturne op. 9 #2 for the left hand; the starting point, that is almost plagiarized, is the second movement of Haneselt’s Concerto, but the very quick movements of the hand, needed for jumping awesome distances across the keyboard, cause a different attack of the key and a sound tone that isn’t romantic anymore». His sound constructions are not movements of lines or masses, but «movements of light beams inside a nebula».

It will be possible to appreciate these first steps of Skrjabin towards his mature style in Aki Kuroda’s concert (tomorrow on Limenmusic Web Tv @ www.limenmusic.com – Channel 1). Aki’s mastery of this

For a trailer of the concert, Click here

Equally remarkable is the taste Aki Kuroda shows in choosing the programs of her performances, often giving to her audience vibrant renditions of not-so-well-known works, and enlivening this way our appreciation of the musical universe. In this case, the theme is «the left hand»: the Skrjabin’s Nocturne is paired with one of the Piano Studies of Brahms, based on Bach’s Ciaccona from a Partita for Violin – not a lesser technical challenge.

As a conclusion, the complete Italian passage of the above quotation from Rattalino’s book:

Si può cogliere il passaggio da concezioni del suono ancora chopiniano, henseltiane a concezioni scriabiniane nel Nottuno op. 9 n. 2 (1894) per la sola mano sinistra; il punto di partenza, che quasi viene plagiato, è il secondo tempo del Concerto di Henselt, ma i rapidissimi spostamenti della mano, necessari a coprire enormi distanze sulla tastiera, provocano un attacco del tasto diverso e una sonorità non più romantica.

[…] Nella formazione del suo stile pianistico si possono così individuare influenze dirette o indirette di Chopin come di Liszt, di Schumann, di Henselt, ma il suo stile, in quanto ha di suo proprio e di irrpetibile, sic hiarisce nello sviluppo dei movimenti di parti interne fino a che le sue costruzioni sonore non si articolano come movimenti di linee e di masse, ma come riflessi, come movimenti di fasci di luce all’interno di una nebulosa.

(From Piero Rattalino, Storia del pianoforte, Milano, Il Saggiatore, 1988, pp. 278-279)

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