Reminiscences on Scriabin
by L. L. Sabaneyev.
Klassika-XXI: Moscow, 2000.
400 pages.
ISBN: 5-89817-011-1.
Reviewed by Irina L. Vanechkina and Bulat M. Galeyev,
Institute "Prometheus", 10, K. Marks, Kazan, 420111, Russia. E-mail:

This book has been awaited by music critics for a long, though it is not the original edition. This is reprint. But it was published so long ago for the first time, yet in 1925, and the quantity of copies was so little that it became the bibliographical rarity. We have to add that Sabaneyev emigrated abroad the year next to that of publishing of the "Reminiscences", this being automaticaly connected in Soviet Russia either with oblivion or with compulsory critical attitude to such authors. But the astonishing fact is that in spite of such circumstances no book on Scriabin even in Soviet times did not fail to include references to Sabaneyev's Reminiscences, though with excuses, allusions to "lightweightness", and sometimes on possible "untruthfullness" of information. Now, when ideological obstacles are removed, it is possible to estimate adequately Sabaneyev's "Reminiscences". The more, it is necessary now, when more grateful readers can familiarize with them. This description of last 4-5 years of Scriabin's life is most detailed and full, interesting one in terms of researching of development of Scriabin's "light symphony" idea, his "colour hearing" (synaethesia) system. It is within 1910-14 period that completing Scriabin's work on Prometheus (opus 60) and transition to another, grandiose synthetic piece "Prefatory Action" (incomplete) falls in. Sabaneyev scrupulousely reproduces all Scriabin thoughts on "light symphony" in "Reminiscences". And the value of the reminiscences is indisputable, because they are based on everyday dairy notes Sabaneyev made upon his meetings with copmoser. What is more, it is noticable that he, Sabaneyev, was often the initiator himself of such talks on "Gesamtkunstwerk". Sabaneyev's interest to light-music is the special one, because he graduated not only from Conservatory, but also from physics and mathematics department of Moscow University. He was interested both in aesthetical and natural science aspects of lightmusical synthesis problem. Within 1910-14 years period he discussed in press "colour hearing" phenomenon, proposed original "overtone" theory to explain Scriabin's harmony. All publications on the items were made on composer's approval judging onthe fact that it took place at Scriabin's life. And the major feature is that essence of the articles do not contradict data included in "Remeiniscences", because they are written by the same person, basing on the same diary fixation of Scriabin's thoughts.

More complicated is situation with later Sabaneyev's publications, where it is difficult sometimes to reader to discern Sabaneyev-biograph from Sabaneyev-theoretician. In books on Scriabin published in 1916, in 1923 already after composer's death Sabaneyev often supplemented Scriabin thoughts with his own ones, not always showing difference, this sometimes confusing reader. It is this case when usage of "Reminiscences" is quite helpful, because Scriabin personaly is represented more precisely and truthful there.

There are certainly moments in "Reminiscences" contradicting each other too. The matter is that Sabaneyev's diaries fixed dynamical development of Scriabin's ideas. And Sabaneyev sometimes failed to trace the ideas development logics. But in the same time, there is a great chance to reconstruct actual picture of Scriabin's life last years possesing such a valuable document as "Reminiscences" and comparing it with Sabaneyev's articles, with other reminiscences of composer's colleagues and friends. The same is true for Scriabin's lightmusical ideas.

This aspect is presented in ultimate detailed manner in our monograph "Prometheus: Poem of Fire" (1980). And it is not astonishing that this book features practically on each page references to the "Reminiscences" as most valuable and in some cases unique source of documentary data on Scriabin as light-musician.

We would like to remind the Western readers, who can not read Russian, that the translation into German of one of Sabanyev's article on "Prometheus" was included in famous collection of articles "Der Blaue Reiter" [1] and that Sabaneyev being emigrant addressed the light-music problem once more in other, English-language, article [2].. Sabaneyev lived in France where died in 1968. The following fact is of extraordinary meaning for experts in Scriabin. After Sabaneyev death unique copy of Scriabin's "Prometheus" score was transmitted from Sabanyeyv's archive to National library of France. As it is described in the reminiscences under review, Scriabin himself, on Sabaneyev's request, added light string "Luce" with verbal description of forms, shapes, to be formed by colours designated in "Luce". Sabaneyev had taken the copy with him abroad and it became accessible for experts in Scriabin quite recently. The value of the score is , as they say, another story [3].

Returning to Reminiscences one only have to add the reprint edition under review is supplemented with short afterword (by S. Grokhotov, describing biography of the reminiscences author himself, with notes and index of names, Sabaneyev himself failed to provide, being very useful for such kind of book.

List of bibliographic references

  1. Sabanejew L.  "Prometheus" von Scriabin. - "Der Blaue Reiter", Munchen, 1912.
  2. Sabaneev L.  The relation between Sound and Colour. - Music and Letters, v.10, 1929, N 3.
  3. Vanechkina I. L.  On "Paris" score of "Prometheus". - In: "Prometheus-2000" (proceedings of international conference). - Kazan: Fan, 2000 (in Russian).