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About this Piece

Scriabin was much influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche and theosophy, and he tried to realize that in his music. His 10 piano sonatas—and the last six particularly—are all to some degree programmatic works striving for mystical ecstasy. To express this, Scriabin developed his own idiosyncratic system of non-triadic harmony, something that seems to baffle analysts more than audiences.

Like all of the last six sonatas, the Eighth is in a single, multi-sectional movement. The longest of the sonatas, it is also the most rigorously symmetric in structure and proportion, with regular repetition of several well-defined motives. A keyboard virtuoso himself, Scriabin exploited the full range and sonority of the instrument, creating an enormous technical as well as conceptual challenge. Scriabin regarded the piece as deeply tragic and never performed it himself. But the effect of the repetition and symmetrical form on his richly colored soundscape is one of “enchanted time,” in which there is no linear past or future, only a magical now. —John Henken