Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Reviews from other months

The Iron Foundry (1923) - USSRSO/Evgeny Svetlanov
Three Children's Scenes (1926) - Nelly Lee + ensemble
Four Newspaper Ads (1926) Nelly Lee + USSR Min Cult SO/Rozhdestvensky
Piano Sonata No. 4 (1925) Rusudan Khuntsariya (piano)
Piano Sonata No. 5 (1926) Rusudan Khuntsariya (piano)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1927) Rusudan Khuntsariya/USSRSO/Vladimir Kozhukhar
Two Nocturnes Op. 15 (1926) Rusudan Khuntsariya (piano)  
rec 1975-85, Moscow BMG MELODIYA 74321 56263 2 [75.04]



The Iron Foundry is a well known piece. It enjoys an oddity reputation and is rarely heard. Recordings have been few and far between. This seems to be the most recent. There are times when the intertwining rhythmic figures suggest an early example minimalism. Whirring machinery hammers away and horns stride across the aural texture in manic intensity. This is music of a metallic nightmare. The recording was made in concert and ends in a tumult of applause. The piece reminded me of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite.

The Three Children's Scenes are here given in an orchestration by Edison Denisov. The howling reminded me of Britten's strongest song cycle Our Hunting Fathers. The piece has some heart unlike the Foundry. The soprano (Nelly Lee) is good with a bell clear voice. The words are by Mossolov himself. The Newspaper Ads vary in approach from Russian operatic to viridian clockwork energy.

Tunes fly out in sparks and long molten lines in the single movement fourth piano sonata. The strenuous piano writing sounds at times like a brick thrown at an adamantine crystal wall is in one movement. In there amongst the clangour is an extremely romantic theme engulfed in the din of gargantuan broken bells and sledge-hammer assaults.

The fifth sonata is in four movements mixing a goaded chase and nocturnal whispers. At 3:12 a sweet tune floats to the surface right out of children songs. The second movement emulates a muffled drumbeat and melts into a netherworld elegy where the curlew cries out. The scherzo marziale is irritable and heated like hot acid flowing in full spate. The finale is the single largest movement deploying a theme similar to the main romantic theme in the fourth sonata. The bass is rooted in great muscular strength. Dies Irae puts in an appearance. The music suggested to me some great Russian abbey.

The piano concerto starts with a nightmare scene - all gore, bandages and ghouls scavenging a corpse-littered battlefield. More than a few moments are indebted to Ravel. At 2:50 a Rite of Spring beat rears up. There is some humour in this but not much and what is there is pretty dark. The big central movement offers chamber textures and a sliding violin leaning towards the screechy avant-garde. The finale is a slurry of oily black notes. This is not a loveable work.

The Two Nocturnes comprise an irate toccata. Cascades of heavily perfumed notes dominate the second nocturne.

The well laid out booklet offers plentiful background.

A good and generous collection filling in a gap in the history of Russian music of the 1920s. The Foundry and piano sonatas are the strongest works on the disc.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

Reviews carry sales links
but you can also purchase

Return to Index