The Relationship between Musical Language and Sound Dramaturgy in the Late Works of Alexander Scriabin: Dissociation versus Determination
In a study we have published in 2002, a first example refers to the modal structure of the pitch organization (the tone-semitone mode in Piano Sonata No. 6 by Scriabin), deduced from the make-up and succession of chords. Rightly do we ask ourselves the question now whether the time progression of the pitch structure observed early in the work applies the laws of formal articulation in modalism: transposition, complementarity, proportionality (symmetry), projecting the modal (intervallic) structure onto the tonal plane of the work. The architectures resulted from these techniques are inscribed in the category of non-developing forms created through juxtaposition, alternation and variation. How do we interpret, however, the articulation of sonata forms in Scriabin’s piano sonatas? If explaining his pitch organization has represented a renewed challenge for international musicology, materialized in multiple analytic and monographic studies from the beginning of the 1970s to the present day, the influence of his harmonic thinking on the temporal modeling of form is still at the outset. We shall see why.
In the present paper, my purpose is to offer a detailed presentation of two contrasting piano works, so as to demonstrate Scriabin’s position at the crossing point between tradition and innovation. Sonata No. 3 in F♯ minor (1897) is an adequate example to show the composer’s ability to use his unreserved creative energy in a stylistic space narrowed by traditional demands (four movements, tonal unity, traditional structures); on the other hand, Sonata No. 7, composed 15 years later, is a mature work which reflects his complex musical way of thinking, connected to his philosophical concepts about world and art. Monolithic structure, unitary thematic based on motivic and harmonic structures, explosive climaxes, fourths and fifths chords, synthetic chords (composed of six notes), mixed chord (major-minor), all these things are essential guide marks when analyzing a score signed by Scriabin, especially after 1907.
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