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Alexander MOSOLOV (1900-1973)
Iron Foundry (1926-7) [3:23]
Piano concerto No. 1 (1927) [24:51]
Tractor’s arrival at the Kolkhoz (1926-7) [3:58]
Legend for cello and piano (1924) [6:19]
Piano sonata No. 1 (1924) [12:26]
Four Newspaper Announcements (1928) [4:14]
Steffen Schleiermacher (piano), Ringela Riemke (cello), Natalia Pschenitschnikova (soprano)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Johannes Kalitzke
rec. 2014, Haus des Rundfunks, Studio Brits, Berlin
CAPRICCIO C5241 [55:09]

In the experimental green-shoot years of the USSR Alexander Mosolov, like Erik Chisholm in Scotland, was a champion of the new. He masterminded performances of Berg, Hindemith, Casella, Milhaud and Honegger when they were at the keen cutting edge. The experimental and the consciously 'modern' enjoyed oxygen-rich days in the decade after 1917 before tolerance began to narrow. This pupil of Gliere and Miaskovsky studied with those figures during the years 1921-25. Indeed he owed his freedom - and maybe more - to these older composers who successfully pleaded for his release when Mosolov's politics resulted in his imprisonment in 1937.

Mosolov has been known for years as the composer of Iron Foundry and of nothing else. The piece was recorded by de Sabata, Chailly (Decca), Salonen (Sony), Svetlanov (Scribendum and BMG Melodiya) and Botstein (American SO). Jonathan Woolf reminds me that in the days of shellac it was recorded by one Ehrlich with the Paris Symphony and by Arthur Fiedler with the Bostonians. The first US performance took place on 23 Oct 1931 by the Philadelphia and Stokowski but they were pipped to the post by Boult and the BBCSO at the Queens Hall, London on 15 Feb 1931. Add to this roster a Westminster LP (N-LAB 7004) in which Argeo Quadri conducted the Leningrad Phil. Some Googling reveals that the other movements of the ballet were: In Prison, At the Ball and On the Square but these have been lost.

Iron Foundry is relentless, pounding, thunderous and very short. Think in terms of Honegger's Pacific 231 which predates it by four years. The Mosolov may also have been inspired by the hard-eyed wildness of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite of 1915. There are a few moments where it even had me thinking of Grainger's The Warriors. Despite the title The Tractor's arrival at the Kolkhoz starts with plenty of oriental steppe nostalgia reminiscent of Borodin and Ippolitov-Ivanov. This is perhaps to underscore the transformation from peasantry to industrial agriculture. The latter is signalled by the jazzy raspberries blown by the trombones and pages that might even be related to Ibert's Divertissement, Satie's Relache and parts of Arnold's Symphony No. 8. The Legend, Piano sonata No. 1 and songs are interesting but did not linger long in the memory.

All-Mosolov CDs are rare but there have been at least two. Arte Nova included a complete CD of his piano music as part of a five disc set of Russian Modernism. BMG Melodiya issued a disc dedicated to Mosolov. Both appeared in 1999. The BMG disc (long deleted) is generously timed - about 20 minutes more than this Capriccio. However in practical terms this Capriccio is the only game in town and offering 33 minutes of works for orchestra and 23 minutes of other music is a decent basis for satisfying your curiosity. I confess that on the basis of this disc Mosolov remains an object of curiosity rather than impressed enthusiasm.
Rob Barnett



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