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Aleksandr Skrjabin tra musica e filosofia Torino-Firenze, De Sono-Passigli Editori, 1991, pagg. 190.

Review by Maria Girardi in Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana, LI, 1,1992, pp.114-15.

Without considering Amalia Collisani’s specific study, Il Prometeo di Scriabin (Palermo, Flaccovio, 1997) and the recent translation of Faubion Bowers’s volume Skrjabin (Pieve del Caior-Pavia, Gioiosa ditrice, 1990, but dating back to 1973), the contributions and the essays in Italian about this interesting musician’s work and writings have been few. At last there is available for the readers an organic work where Skrjabin’s personality emerges, through his contemporaries’ contributions and especially through an accurate analysis of the letters and writings left by the composer. The publication of the ample study by Luigi Verdi (the winner of the 1989 Musicological Competition published by the Associazione “Il Coretto” in Bari) bridges meaningfully a gap within a historical period in which  Skrjabin is a nodal point of the Russian late-19th century and early-20th century musical panorama. At first by means of the German-Romantic-type code of perception and them by means of absolutely singular personal contributions, the fascinating figure of the genial composer is outlined together with the provoking character of the original thinker and of the sharp observer of his age. Step by step, Verdi goes over the fundamental stages of Skrjabin’s life, from the early projects for an unaccomplished work (of which the material was then used in other short pieces) from the “metaphysical speculations” contained in his personal notebooks (not bound to publication), from his most famous work “The Poem of  Ecstasy” (partly created during his staying in Bogliasco in Italy)   to his considerations of esoteric nature inspiring Prometheus, from the experiences linked to synaesthesia to the attempt to unify all arts in a Whole work of art called Misterium, which remained unfinished. Thanks to the several excerpts from the correspondence which went on for several years between the composer and his publisher and friend Beljaev and thanks to the translation of all the texts used by Skrjabin for his compositions, we are now able to outline Skrjabin’s philosophical thought, which formed with the background of the charms given to him by the reading of some writings by Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Wundt, Paulsen, Kant, Platone, Goethe, Windelband but also due to the direct contact with some outstanding exponents of the Russian culture of that time, among whom prince Trubeckoj, Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University, Chairman of the Philosophical Society and follower of Solov’ev’s theories, forerunning Symbolism. And it is in the poetic text of the Poem of the Ecstasy that many elements from the symbolist precepts undoubtedly come out. Infact the musician expresses a parallelism between phenomenal world and noumenonal world, and tends to sketch series of consonances and correspondences between what art represents as an exterior reality and what it perceives as an interior reality. Even if  the formal aspect of Skrjabin’s programme may approach sensibly the poetics of Russian symbolism, yet the Poem of Ecstasy appears to be a work marked by the creative originality of the composer and helps us understand the originality of the symphonic work itself. Anyway, very relevant are also the chapters devoted to the problem of the relation between sound and light in the form of synaesthesia (coloured hearing) specified by Skrjabin in Prometheus (1909), where systematically the synthetic chord is used; besides, very interesting are the further attempts to create at first an orchestra poem “Icarus” (not even sketched), and then, as a phenomenon of ars combinatoria, the already quoted Mysterium, a wide organization of sounds, colours, movements, expressiveness by gestures, words, perfumes, utopistically pursued on the basis of the idea of organic Whole expressed by Sabaneev in “Der blaue Reiter” in 1912 . Verdi’s work, centred mostly around a recognition of Skrjabin’s thought, does not omit to deal with other topics, such as the musical ones relative to the most relevant compositions and the ones linked to the periods shortly preceding and following the death of the musician (1915), whose heritage was for a certain period perceived in Gličre (in the symphonic poem “The mermaids”, 1908), in Prokof’ev (in the symphonic poem “Dreams”, 1910), in Stravinskij (in the cantata “The king of Stars, dedicated to Debussy, written in 1991/12 upon one of Bal’mont’s texts) and was welcomed then by other satellite figures revolving around Skrjabinism, such as Gunst, Roslavec, Mosolov, Obuchov, Protopopov, Lourié, Vysnegradskij, Krejn and writer Boris Pasternak, who for some time was one of Skrjabin’s pupils.

Maria Girardi

 

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