The Wall Street Journal visits the Scriabin Museum in Moscow to find treasures from the composer’s past.
Inside, a visitor is ushered by the customary Russian museum matrons into a side room, where a homemade sign announces the entrance fee as 200 rubles (at today’s rate, a bit over $3). Further along is a large room with a bright red piano, used regularly for children’s art classes. But the second floor is where the museum proper is located.
But the attention-getter here is the color organ built by Scriabin’s friend, the scientist Alexander Mozer, designed for use in a performance of the composer’s mystical orchestral work “Prometheus: The Poem of Fire” (1910). It’s a small wooden circle of 12 electric lamps in a spectrum of colors that fits easily on the desk in this music room. “Prometheus” was likely the first music score to include instructions for projecting colors corresponding to the tones being played. At the 1911 first performance under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky, those little light bulbs were to be presented at the front of the stage, but the composer withdrew the device because of technical problems. It’s hard to imagine that this small contraption would have had any effect in a concert hall. Later attempts made use of a screen.