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Anatoly ALEXANDROV (1888-1982)
Piano Music
Six Preludes op. 1 (1907-10, 1927) [8:29]
Piano Sonata No. 4 op. 19 (1922, rev. 1954) [18:05]
Obsession Passé (A Long Forgotten Madness) op. 6 (1911-17) [5:30]
Three Studies op. 31 (1925) [7:49]
Romantic Episodes op. 88 nos. 6, 10 [5:59]
Piano Sonata No. 3 op. 18 (1920, rev. 1956, 1967) [15:40]
Visions op. 111 (1979) [4:00]
Elegy and Waltz op. 89 (1964) [9:03]
Hamish Milne (piano)
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 19-21 October 2001. DDD
HYPERION CDA67328 [75:25] 
Experience Classicsonline

Alexandrov's remarkable longevity meant that his life spanned the death throes of Tsarism and the rise and decay of Soviet state Communism. His six Preludes are mellifluous and tempestuously dramatic - a contrast pointed up by the Third and Fourth Preludes. There are even hints of a trade-off between Chopin and snowy impressionism in the fifth - liberamente amoroso. The muscular romantic protest of the Fourth Sonata's 'gran passione' first movement is offset by the bass-centric Isle of the Dead musing of the central movement and the het-up triumphalism of the finale. This sonata was a favourite with the circle of artists drawn to Pavel Lamm's Moscow soirées. The mood changes for the four movements of  Obsession Passé. Here the language is more brittle, even monumentally dissonant, and it is notable that the Dies Irae is there deep in the bass undergrowth of the final section. The work is dedicated to Alexei Stanchinsky. The first of the Three Studies zanily parodies Mussorgsky and his hysterical unhatched chicks. The last Study op. 31 is seemingly happy to explore and dissect the tolling of the great bells of Russia and does so amid hot and angular shrapnel. The Adagio movement from the ten Romantic Episodes is unabashedly sentimental with the benign shade of Rachmaninov in evidence. Classic FM really should discover this piece. The Third Piano Sonata  encompasses a broad torrential onslaught before the gawkily Prokofievian grotesquerie of the Interludio. In the Sostenuto finale we reach a realm of slate-grey gleam and dissonance but all within the envelope of writing that dates back to the 1910s. Incredible to think that the two Visions date from 1979. The first is all mesmeric rustling - a powerful Suggestion Diabolique. The Allegro from op. 111 is a flighty Sarcasm made unpredictable by playful and triumphant tendencies. In 1964 Alexandrov's Elegie and Waltz looked back through a feint haze of modern angularity at Rachmaninov. The final Waltz combines the elements of an aristocratic elegance with a simple song clothed in a fine dusting of nostalgia. 

After studying composition with Sergei Vasilenko and piano with Konstantn Igumnov he graduated from the Moscow Conservatoire and from 1923 until his retirement taught composition there. Alexandrov seems to have had little interest in politics. His music continued its trajectory of inspiration occasionally coinciding by happenstance with official state attitudes. 

Weary of Rachmaninov and Scriabin? Give Alexandrov and this sadly and surprisingly overlooked disc a chance. Alexandrov and Milne will reward your purchase many times over. There is room for further Alexandrov collections.

Rob Barnett




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