Opus 68

Year of composition
1913
Year of arrangement: 2003
Subtitle
Piano sonata no. 9
Scored for
for large orchestra
Composer
Alexander Nikolajewitsch Skrjabin
Arranger: Georg Friedrich Haas
Instrumentation
3 3 3 3 – 4 4 4 1 – perc(3), hp, acc, str(12 10 8 8 6)
Instrumentation details

1st flute (+Afl(G))
2nd flute (+bass fl)
3rd flute (+picc)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
cor anglais
1st clarinet in A
2nd clarinet in A (+cb.cl(Bb))
bass clarinet in Bb
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in Bb
2nd trumpet in Bb
3rd trumpet in Bb
4th trumpet in Bb
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
4th trombone
tuba
1st percussion
2nd percussion
3rd percussion
harp
accordion
violin I
violin II
viola
violoncello
contrabass

Commissioned by

Auftragswerk des WDR/Musik der Zeit

Duration
10′

World Premiere

Location: Philharmonie Köln / Germany
Date: 31.01.2004
Orchestra: WDR SO Köln
Conductor: Peter Rundel

Work introduction

There would have been no sense in orchestrating Skrjabin’s 9th Sonata in a historically correct way. My interest was in projecting this music onto my own sonic ethos. The work is at a remove from Skrjabin; it is like a commentary leaving almost all the pitches untouched and adding only a few more. The pitches and harmonic scheme are Skrjabin’s, while the tone-colours and their alternations are by Haas. With its formal layout and harmonic boldness, the 9th Sonata cries out for a more expanded sound, extending beyond the piano only; I wanted to translate the subcutaneous in this music into orchestral language. I was gripped by the formal aspect; the sonata breaks off just at the moment when the recapitulation should be starting. That “reprise” signifies a hush, a disaster – I identify very closely with this approach to a recapitulation.

Skrjabin proceeds from a single motif which burrows its way into the music, dissipates it and destroys it. He persists with that melodic gestalt, which changes only in its tone-colour – that is incredibly fascinating.

In my music I often configure spirals beginning in the infinite and continuing into the infinite, their direction never wavering. Skrjabin’s 9th Sonata has that, too; instances of minor thirds harmonically create an endless spiral. My orchestration elucidates that – it does not work with the piano alone, of course, because it cannot create such a spiral that way; the piano sound cannot begin dal niente [from nothing] or be altered after the keys are struck.

I chose not to use microtonality in this piece; Skrjabin’s original thrives on the chromatically twelve-tone, tempered harmonic system. Yes, there are moments which could be analysed in terms of microtonality, but they cannot be filtered out of the context of equal temperament; for example, when he mixes two overtone chords a tritone apart with each other, it only works because the overtone chords are derived from the tempered scale.

Skrjabin works from the outset with those tempered, deformed overtone scales; it would be wrong to try to deform that again by reworking it – that would destroy the sense of the music.

Apart from the prominent accordion part (I like it because of its forlorn tone-colour), the orchestration is conventional other than the tympani, which play a huge part. I used them almost like a piano, except more as melodic instruments.

Georg Friedrich Haas (from an interview with Martina Seeber)

Ensembles that have played this work

Wiener Philharmoniker
Wiener Symphoniker
Deutsches SO Berlin
hr-Sinfonieorchester
WDR SO Köln

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