While studying at the Moscow Conservatory, Scriabin strained his right hand severely while learning Liszt's Don Juan Fantasy and Balakirev's Islamey. This resulted in two compositions for left hand alone, Prelude and Nocturne Op. 9. Both these pieces enjoyed a minor vogue in the middle twentieth century, but are generally and unfairly neglected today.
- 1. Prelude in C#-: Some critics have surmised that the Op. 9 pieces and the composer's subsequent tendency in some piano works to focus less on the role of the right hand might have been related to the injury. Whatever accounted for Scriabin's decision to write this piece for the left hand alone is still a matter for conjecture, but the Prelude's artistic worth generates no controversy. While it exhibits the influence of Chopin—hardly a surprising quality in early Scriabin—it is thematically attractive and so well-crafted in its writing that the listener will hardly notice the idleness of the other hand. Chopin's voice can be heard in the forlorn beauty of the main theme, a short-breathed creation that dominates the entire three-minute length of the piece in one guise or another. The mood is sad and gentle at the outset, but soon turns angry and intense, only to yield back to the quieter bereavement of the opening. A last struggle to rise up again precedes the hushed, gloomy ending. - 2. Nocturne in Db: In the admittedly narrow genre of solo piano works for left hand, this is one of the more popular pieces. It is a lush, Romantic composition, Scriabin not yet divulging the mystical character prominent in most of his later works. While this piece exhibits the influence of Chopin, it does not divulge the generally darker manner of his nocturnes. It is full of passion and yearning, full of the kind of Romantic outpourings that would permeate so much of the keyboard output of Scriabin's friend Rachmaninov. The work opens with a lovely long-breathed theme, whose range spans most of the keyboard. Harmonies, mostly played in the bass and middle registers, become part of the thematic flow, not least because only one hand is playing the notes. The theme's arched contour favors its descending half until the final ecstatic phrase in the upper register. The stormy middle section is comprised of a passionate variant of the melody and is followed by a return of the theme in its original guise. A final, ecstatic rendering of it ensues, sending the music into a sort of playful, gleeful tailspin before the quiet close.