„The first was the classical line, which could be traced back to my early childhood and the Beethoven sonatas I heard my mother play. This line takes sometimes a neo-classical form (sonatas, concertos), sometimes imitates the 18th century classics (gavottes, the Classical symphony, partly the Sinfonietta). The second line, the modern trend, begins with that meeting with Taneyev when he reproached me for the “crudeness” of my harmonies. At first this took the form of a search for my own harmonic language, developing later into a search for a language in which to express powerful emotions (The Phantom, Despair, Diabolical Suggestion, Sarcasms, Scythian Suite, a few of the songs, op. 23, The Gambler, Seven, They Were Seven, the Quintet and the Second Symphony). Although this line covers harmonic language mainly, it also includes new departures in melody, orchestration and drama. The third line is toccata or the “motor” line traceable perhaps to Schumann’s Toccata which made such a powerful impression on me when I first heard it (Etudes, op. 2, Toccata, op. 11, Scherzo, op. 12, the Scherzo of the Second Concerto, the Toccata in the Fifth Concerto, and also the repetitive intensity of the melodic figures in the Scythian Suite, Pas d’acier[The Age of Steel], or passages in the Third Concerto). This line is perhaps the least important. The fourth line is lyrical; it appears first as a thoughtful and meditative mood, not always associated with the melody, or, at any rate, with the long melody (The Fairy-tale, op. 3, Dreams, Autumnal Sketch[Osenneye], Songs, op. 9, The Legend, op. 12), sometimes partly contained in the long melody (choruses on Balmont texts, beginning of the First Violin Concerto, songs to Akhmatova’s poems, Old Granny’s Tales[Tales of an Old Grandmother]). This line was not noticed until much later. For a long time I was given no credit for any lyrical gift whatsoever, and for want of encouragement it developed slowly. But as time went on I gave more and more attention to this aspect of my work. I should like to limit myself to these four “lines,” and to regard the fifth, “grotesque” line which some wish to ascribe to me, as simply a deviation from the other lines. In any case I strenuously object to the very word “grotesque” which has become hackneyed to the point of nausea. As a matter of fact the use of the French word “grotesque” in this sense is a distortion of the meaning. I would prefer my music to be described as “Scherzo-ish” in quality, or else by three words describing the various degrees of the Scherzo—whimsicality, laughter, mockery.“

Page 36-37; from his fragmentary Autobiography.

Adopted from Wikiquote. Last update June 3, 2021. History
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