It was shortly after the student revolt in Paris in 1968. Austbø
had taken part in "les évènements" and the new wind
that was blowing drew him towards a composer that had always puzzled him.
He started studying the fifth sonata and some of the later works and soon
became very involved with the world of Skryabin, a visionary world of ecstatic
colours, erotic dreams and transcendental aspirations.
This was a dangerous world, too: Skryabin's solipsistic and megalomaniac
ideas could easily become dominating in an unhealthy way. Austbø
realised this and took some distance to the issue. After some years, however,
he could make a new approach to the composer. In 1982, he recorded the
complete Poems for Saravah/RCA and in the following seasons included an
increasing amount of Skryabin works in his concerts. He had started with
the later works and now extended toward the middle and early periods of
In 1986 Austbø performed Prometheus op.60 with the Residentie
Orchestra of the Hague. This is a symphonic poem (subtitle: Le poème
du feu) with a concertante piano part, choir and colour keyboard (tastiera
per Luce). The idea of combining music and colours was not totally
new in 1910, but it was certainly revolutionary to include a detailed colour
part in an orchestral score. Austbø started to cultivate a dream:
the realisation of this colour play in the true spirit of the composer.
Before this dream was to become reality, he undertook other projects
around Skryabin. In 1989 and 1990 he recorded the complete sonatas for
SIMAX and this gave him the Norwegian Grammy award. He also performed the
complete sonatas in two consecutive days in Oslo. From then on, his repertoire
stretched through all periods of Skryabin's work.
In 1992 Austbø visited Moscow and the Skryabin Museum. His performances
were compared to those of Sofronitzky, and he met Skryabin authorities
like composer Alexander Nemtin, biographer Faubion Bowers and light-and
music-designer Bulat Galeyev (from right to left, photo above). At that
time, Austbø was the president of the Amsterdam Skryabin Society
and was later appointed first vice-president of the international Skryabin
Society in Moscow. In 1993 and 1995 he visited Russia again, the last time
as a jury member of the first international Skryabin piano competition.
In the meantime, the LUCE-project had
been realised under the auspices of the Amsterdam Skryabin Society and
later of the LUCE Foundation. Austbø and colleague/multimedia-specialist
Rob van de Poel had designed and composed the colour keyboard part of Prometheus,
based on historical sources, and the piece had been performed at the Hague
on Nov. 20th, 1994, again with the Residentie Orchestra under Oliver Knussen,
with Austbø at the piano and with a specially constructed light
installation, 8 by 12 meters, which can be put up in any hall throughout
the world. Robbert van Steijn performed the LUCE-part.
The light melted and danced, diffracted and slid away like
treacle on a spoon. Light stormed and burned, glowed and faded in pure
harmony with the music. This was no light show à la Peter Gabriel
but music in light - without conspicuous repetitions. Electrifying.
Marc Blaisse in "Liquid Light", Amsterdam '95
This was total art, certainly when the choir started singing and
created associations with the opening of heaven.
Momentary reality as all the senses trembled with ecstasy at so
many simultaneous stimuli.
Scriabin wanted hallucinations, what he got was angels.
In 1997 the LUCE project was performed again during the Bergen International
The Financial Times, London, wrote:
... a tremendous light show that would have delighted the composer.
In 1998, the "Prefatory Action" (Mysterium), by Skryabin/Nemtin was performed
in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, using the same light installation. Valery
Poliansky conducted the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra with Alexei Lubimov
at the piano. Håkon Austbø played the colour keyboard.
Again with Austbø at the piano and with van Steijn at the colour
keyboard, Prometheus was performed three times in June, 1999, by the Northern
Netherlands Orchestra conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk. An enhanced version
of the colour part was premiered.
In February, 2000, Håkon Austbø performed Skryabin's 10
sonatas at the Maly Zal of the Moscow Conservatoire. This was a historic
event: last time this happened was in 1922 with Heinrich Neuhaus.