program notes by composition > N > Nocturne

Nocturne, Op. 9 No. 2

Alexander Scriabin/arr. Alfred Reed

A nocturne is usually a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. The name was first applied to pieces in the 18th centu ry, when it indicated an ensemble piece in several movements, normally played for an evening party and then laid aside. In the 19th century the nocturne was cultivated in its more familiar form as a single-movement character piece usually written for solo piano. Nocturnes are generally thought of as being tranquil, often expressive and lyrical, sometimes rather gloomy, but in practice pieces with the name nocturne have conveyed a variety of moods.

Alexander Scriabin (1872 – 1915) was a Russian composer and pianist. His early work is characterized by a lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language influ- enced by Frédéric Chopin. Later in his career he developed a substantially aton- al and much more dissonant musical system, accorded to mysticism.

Scriabin was influenced by synesthesia (def.: the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body). He associated colors with the various harmonic tones of his atonal scale. His color-coded circle of fifths was also influenced by theosophy (def.: religious philosophy or speculation about the nature of the soul based on mystical insight into the nature of God).

Scriabin considered himself to be a messianic figure. He died amidst “The Great War” gripping all of Europe at the time, which he thought would purge mankind and usher in a glorious new era of mystical wonder. Inspired by Wagner’s ideas, he even planned on composing a mammoth piece, the Mysterium, to commemorate this cataclysmic event, but he died before completing it.

Last updated on November 12, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band