Tablet - Portrait

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Alexander Scriabin

The extramusical religious ideas which became an increasing obsession in Scriabin's last years have tended to overshadow the the composer's music and even to alienate more than a few listeners. The Fourth Piano Sonata was written at a time of transition for Scriabin: Musically, he was moving ever closer toward real atonality, while his personal life was marked by the deepening complexity of his theophilosophical ponderings.

The Fourth Sonata is divided into two closely related movements, both cast in the warm, radiant key of F sharp major. While still making use of tonal structures, Scriabin was also in the process of developing new forms into which those structures could be placed. The sonata's first movement (Andante) is built from two major motives, one reaching upward hopefully with many melodic leaps, the other moving more linearly, as though exhausted. The earlier idea eventually prevails, and the second movement (Prestissimo volande) begins without interruption. In this active movement, cast in sonata-allegro form, the upward reaching theme reappears, now with greater force and in a more tumultuous context. This gives way to the return of the movement's first theme (now abridged) and second theme (now expanded). In a glorious coda, the upward-reaching motive of the first movement reasserts itself one last time, sans the corresponding "exhaustion" motive, and the sonata ends in a truly joyful mood.