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Mosolov - Piano Sonatas Nos 2 and 5; Two Nocturnes CD
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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.
Herbert Henck - piano
Top Customer Reviews
You will perhaps have come across some obscure music from Soviet Russia before. Many times it is accompanied by flattering remarks and comments touting the composer's genius. Then you listen to it and think: so what - sounds like a poor version of composer XYZ? There is a lot of this kind of 'second rate' (I hate to say it) music out there. This however is where Mosolov stands out. His music is NOT like that at all. This is genuinely unique stuff which truly deserves a place in the pianist's repertoire!
Mosolov's music is extremely dark and artistic. It can be enjoyed very much on an conventional aesthetic level since his works are in fact tonal and are extremely well structured, much like Prokofiev's works - so they require no 'special training' or knowledge of music theory to appreciate, just an open mind, and perhaps an artistic propensity towards the darker side...
In fact this music was formed by the aspiring young Mosolov somewhere in the wake of Prokofiev's early career and during his absence in Paris. The 2nd piano sonata has the subtitle 'From old notebooks' which is certainly in homage to Prokofiev and contains some very powerful music! The 5th sonata is epic in proportion. The nocturnes are a really nice addition although they might give you nightmares if you have a particularly vivid imagination!Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Mosolov's piano output is limited but highly original. Of his five piano sonatas, four have survived and they exhibit an impressive amalgam of expressive attributes. Although moments of Scriabinesque beauty and passion occur throughout these works, Mosolov's music is overwhelmingly dreary, intense and tinged with high-voltage aggression. Hints of Roslavets emerge in the tonality, but the influence of Prokofiev and Shostakovich vis-a-vis dissonance and percussive rhythm are more apparent. However, Mosolov's idiom is not derivative and is expressively darker than his contemporaries. The Second Piano Sonata (1924) is a masterpiece that few piano connoisseurs know about. Although the work may share a close kinship with late Scriabin, Mosolov creates his own unique sound world: an eerie and depressive atmosphere. The first movement is a 10 minute essay of impressionism and brutality; quiet moments of poignancy contrast with maddening explosions of dissonance. The second "Adagio" movement is a fresco of despair and is almost painfully bleak; the first section features an achingly slow melody with an accompaniment that climbs upwards chromatically and never to any resolution. In the Finale, marked "Allegro tumultuoso, infernale" there are terrifying gusts of virtuosic passage-work that Herbert Henck commands with ease.
The Two Nocturnes Op. 15 date from 1926 and are far removed from the quiet salon genre of the 19th-century. Mosolov's night pieces excavate the darkest regions of the soul. The first, "Elegiaco," is a sinister and gloomy miniature tone-poem, but I believe Schleiermacher's brooding performance (Soviet Avant-Garde) is greater than Henck's. The second, "Adagio" nocturne is similarly mysterious and somber with tinctures of rage. So far, Henck has produced admirable interpretations of Mosolov's music. But the Fifth Sonata loses its forcefulness in his hands. Henck does fine in the first three movements: the "Lento grave" is dynamically expressive and alive with surging energy; the "Elegia" is played fast and the tempo suits this movement better; the "Scherzo marciale" is a hurricane of anger and played with conviction. The last movement, however, and the heart of this entire sonata is played much too fast. Marked "Adagio languente e patetico," this movement is perhaps the most grisly and ominous piano music I've ever heard, and it needs to unfurl slowly. Lombardi understands this and plays it like a dirge with grim determination. But Henck plays with some kind of unyielding "Andante" tempo in his mind, losing the whole "languente" funeral attitude. Compare Lombardi's 13-minute accomplishment to Henck's 8:40 marathon! For this kind of movement, I must urge the reader to trust Lombardi's interpretation and buy the Arte Nova release for the Fifth Sonata (Alexander Mosolov: Piano Works).
Bottom line: Despite my problem with Henck's last movement of the Fifth Sonata, this disc is invaluable to the growing revival of Mosolov's music. This is one of the only available recordings to showcase the Second Sonata and the Two Nocturnes. Mosolov's music is not for the faint-hearted; it is perhaps the darkest and most pessimistic piano music ever penned. If you're comfortable with late Scriabin, Roslavets, Prokofiev, and 20th-century dissonance, then Mosolov should be revelatory.
Most of Mosolov's music is filled with raging passion and dark colors, sadness, despair, longing, resignation, no resolution, and no triumph. His expression markings include "lugubre" and "feroce" and dozens of shades in between. This represents his emotional range. Thematic material is obscure, no melodies, fragments of themes, shreds and shards projected with furious intensity, driven, but (certainly in this performance) not mechanical or motoric. This is in spite of Mosolov's Futurist leanings and links with "machine music." He always makes us aware of the piano as a mechanical device, but never merely that.
Herbert Henck puts this difficult material across in a beautiful, spirited performance and finds a lot of lyricism behind an often forbidding surface. (But when you're done listening you still won't remember any of the tunes.)
The recording and production are up to the highest possible standards, as with all of ECM's releases, which are unsurpassed. The liner notes, by the performer, are exemplary and show him to be as eloquent on paper as he is on the keyboard. The notes significantly enhance the enjoyment and understanding of the music.