Heavily influenced by Chopin, Scriabin, while studying at the Moscow Conservatory, won the school’s second gold medal in 1892 (Rachmaninoff was the first recipient) and embarked on a career as a concert pianist. Despite his short reach and an injury to his right hand, his piano playing nonetheless drew the admiration of Koussevitzky and Rimsky-Korsakov for its “freedom and unpredictability and also for a refined pedaling… an impressive Lisztian technique,” (The New Grove Dictionary). In the early 1890s, Scriabin composed and concertized, earning fame across Europe for his innovative compositions. Influenced by theosophy and the phenomenon of synesthesia in which some people associate colors with numbers, letters or, in his case, musical notes, Scriabin became Russia’s most prominent Russian Symbolist composer, influencing the likes of Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Karol Szymanowski.
Scriabin lived in Switzerland from 1904-1908, and from 1907-08, his residence was on Lausanne’s Square de la Harpe, where he revised the score of his world famous fifth sonata, Le poeme de l’extase, based on his own lengthy poem, Poema extasa (The Poem of Ecstasy). “In the piano pieces op. 44 [2 Poémes, composed in 1904] to op. 57 [composed in 1908] he advanced into a new style, most powerfully represented in the single-movement Le poeme de l’extase for orchestra, completed in 1908,” (ibid.).
A native of St. Petersburg, Sternberg studied piano under Friedrich Wieck (Clara Schumann’s father) and Franz Liszt before serving as the duchy of Mecklenburg’s court pianist. He toured throughout the world during the 1870s and 1880s, eventually becoming the director of Atlanta’s College of Music and, in 1890, the founder of the Sternberg School of Music in Philadelphia, while still actively concertizing, as indicated in our letter. A now absent transmittal envelope bearing Sternberg’s name is noted as having accompanied the letter in a November 2004 Bonham’s auction catalogue.
Creased and age toned with mounting remnants along the edges of the second page, but overall in fine condition. Letters of Scriabin are rare.