Alexandr Mosolov

Herbert Henck

CD18,90 out of print

Alexandr Mosolov’s reputation in the West rested, until quite recently on a handful of orchestral works, in particular the 1928 Zavod (in English, The Iron Foundry). The piece’s hammering rhythms cast the composer as the "machine music" man, the embodiment of Russian Constructivism. This characterization worked against Mosolov in his own, troubled, lifetime and has continued to obscure the breadth of his music.

In fact, Mosolov’s compositional output was prolific and diverse as evident in his early works produced during the 1920’s which included orchestral works, a symphony, two operas, numerous pieces of chamber music and the Sonatas and Noctures for Piano on this recording. In different ways, these pieces were attempts to bring the industrial soundscape into the concert hall and were received with much controversy.

Featured Artists Recorded

March 1995, Festeburgkirche Frankfurt

  • Sonata for Piano No. 2, B Minor op. 4 "From Old Notebooks"
    (Alexandr Mosolov)
  • 1I Sonata - Andante non troppo09:56
  • 2II Adagio - Espressivo, sostenuto e severo (Allegretto)07:08
  • 3III Finale - Allegro tumultuoso, infernale05:33
  • Deux Nocturnes op. 15
    (Alexandr Mosolov)
  • 4I Elegiaco, poco stentato02:56
  • 5II Adagio03:21
  • Sonata for piano No. 5, D Minor op. 12
    (Alexandr Mosolov)
  • 6I Lento grave - Allegro affanato05:25
  • 7II Elegia - Lento05:45
  • 8III Scherzo marciale - Presto, con fuoco02:50
  • 9IV Adagio languente e patetico - Lento08:40
Alexandr MosolovSonatas for piano nos. 2 and 5; Deux Nocturnes op. 15

Alexandr Mosolov's reputation in the West rested, until quite recently, on a handful of orchestral works, in particular the 1928 Zavod (in English, The Iron Foundry) which Stokowski championed and Toscanini introduced to New York audiences, and whose hammering rhythms cast the composer as the "machine music" man, the very embodiment of Russian Constructivism. The characterization worked against Mosolov in his own, troubled, lifetime and has continued to obscure the diversity of his music.

Born in Kiev in 1900, Mosolov received his earliest musical instruction from his mother, an opera singer. His musical education was disrupted by a brief military career with the Red Army, and resumed at the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied piano with Grigorij Prokofiev and composition with Nikolaj Mjaskovskij. In 1925 he joined the Western-oriented Association for Contemporary Music and promptly became its director of chamber music.

Mosolov's compositional output in the 1920s was prolific - orchestral works, a symphony, two operas, numerous pieces of chamber music, as well as the sonatas and nocturnes for piano. In different ways these pieces were attempts to create, in Paul Griffiths' words, "appropriate music for a workers' state of new hope and determination". The composers affiliated with the Constructivist movement were influenced by Italian Futurism, offshoots of which also found expression in Paris in the 20s. Critics of the day bracketed Mosolov's factory ballet Steel with Antheil's Ballet mécanique or Honneger's tribute to the railway, Pacific 231, and variously lauded or damned its attempts to bring the industrial soundscape into the concert hall. Unlike their Western "counterparts", however, Mosolov and his comrades defended their aesthetic stance as one of allegiance to the urban proletariat. The workers were only temporarily persuaded by this line, and Mosolov's celebrity was short-lived. By the 1930s, denounced as decadent and counter-revolutionary by the Russian Union Of Proletarian Musicians, he was forced to modify - that is, simplify - his musical language. Even after his death in 1973, official condemnation of his early work was not tempered and as late as 1985 the Soviet Composers Union refused to grant permission for performances of his piano concerto in East Germany.