Scriabin’s progression as a composer is the most drastic I’ve ever seen. Off the top of my head, anyway. Most composers had stages or progression, where they were toying with concepts, working things out, adding and refining techniques along the way. Scriabin didn’t so much refine as follow the left fork in the road.
Scriabin started out in Romanticism/Late Romanticism. His earlier stuff, like the Sonata-Fantasy, sounds a bit like overblown Chopin. It’s lyrical, it has great chord colors, its structure is pretty easy to follow. It’s almost overwhelming, bordering on heavy, because (unlike Chopin) there’s no respite – when there’s something lyrical, it’s in this huge, thick texture including arpeggios and repeated chords and piano gymnastics.
Then, his middle transitional period. Not so much Romantic, very much experimental. What I wouldn’t give to be able to see the colors he saw as he heard his music! Maybe then I would understand it. It’s the same big sounds as earlier, but with no recognizable tonality. He was working with the colors he saw in his head (from his synesthesia) and his mystic beliefs. It’s still over-the-top expressive, but seemingly in a brand new language.
Then, finally, Scriabin is going to save the world. Or destroy it. As he chooses. This one chord is the answer to everything. And all his pieces are based off that. Because if you have the answer, you’re not going to just let it sit by, are you? These late pieces are much more intriguing, and they seem to be less overtly expressive and more inwardly obsessive. Motives repeat constantly. Repeated notes and trills abound. It’s like he’s hinting at the answer, but he’s not going to share his secret until the time is right.
I’ve heard of performances where colors were incorporated, but it’s not the same. One of my friends tells me her favorite letter is L because it’s blue. I cannot imagine seeing L be blue all the time. The same way, I cannot imagine what Scriabin was thinking, because I am missing (I am guessing) more than half his intention.