Alexander Vasil’yevich Mosolov (1900-1973) was born in Kiev and studied under Reinhold Glière (1874-1956), Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950) and Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) at the Moscow Conservatory. Initially he was very much an arch-modernist but later adopted a more conventional style, drawing on central Asian folk music.
When reviewing some of Mosolov’s works from the 1920’s on a Capriccio disc, including his notorious Iron Foundry and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.1, it was his Piano Sonata No. 1 that I found the most worthwhile piece.
That his sonatas are well worth hearing is something that a new release from Grand Piano www.naxos.com/labels/grandpiano-cd.htm has reinforced. Pianist, Olga Andryushchenko www.olga-andryushchenko.de has recorded a two disc set of Mosolov’s Complete Works for Solo Piano, all of which date from the 1920s.
Mosolov’s Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 3 (1924) is in a single span and opens slowly and rather gloomily as the composer slowly lays out a motif, soon overtaken by a rush of dramatic chords as the opening idea is developed through passages of intense complexity and virtuosity with this pianist rising magnificently to the many challenges. Soon the music drops to a quiet and thoughtful section though the toil, the turmoil and the drama are never far away. It subtly increases in forward drive through sudden outbursts with this pianist showing terrific fluidity in passages of powerful complexity, drawing undoubtedly on late Scriabin to a coda where the power seems to drain away for a quiet end.
Having had this chance to hear this sonata played by another fine pianist it reveals itself as an impressive work that surely deserves more attention.
Of the Two Nocturnes, Op.15 (1925-26) No. 1 Elegiaco, poco stentato has a gentle opening in which Mosolov slowly picks over a motif before becoming more insistent and complex, developing some fine dissonances with Scriabin even more present before a gentle coda. No. 2 Adagio rises through trills before finding a more strident rapidly rising and falling motif. It moves through bars of ever changing tempi and rhythms with some powerful chords before the music falls away to find a quieter, rather desolate conclusion.
No. 1 of the Three Small Pieces, Op. 23a (1927) has a tumbling, descending motif before quickly striding through passages of forward propulsion. It does slow and quieten but soon finds its energy again. No. 2 Moves off quickly in another forward driving rhythm with quixotic little trills before the coda is quickly reached. No. 3 brings a rapid three note rising motif before developing through passages of suddenly changing ideas.
Two Dances, Op.23b (1927) opens with (No.1) Allegro molto, sempre marcato that has a fast moving spiky theme that dances forward, occasionally finding a gentler, more melodic nature before finding fast changing, incisive moments that lead to a sudden coda. No. 2 Allegretto opens with a more gently flowing idea though Mosolov still brings sudden strange little motifs, this pianist bringing some terrific fluency to the rapid scales that follow.
Piano Sonata No.2 in B minor, Op.4 ‘From Old Notebooks’ (1923-24) is in three movements commencing with Sonata that has a quite lovely opening with a gentle little motif in the right hand underpinned by firmer chords with a subtle dissonance. The music soon reaches a fast moving section with broad emphatic chords before shifting through some rather languid passages overlaid with more dramatic ideas. It develops some very fine passages of greater power before eventually finding the opening calm. Yet again it builds in power through some terrific, more complex passages before a spiky rhythmic idea appears only to get rolled into a frenetic forward rolling passage. The music rises through more virtuosic, dramatic passages to arrive at an insistent statement of the theme before calm at the end.
Adagio has a gently swaying motif that Mosolov slowly and subtly develops before soon finding a more impassioned moment. Its quiet nature returns with this pianist finding a real tension in this impressive movement before building to a peak, only to find a quiet coda.
The Final moves off at a speed with many changes, rhythmic and decorative, building through some impressive passages before a gentler middle section arrives. The music again builds through ever more demanding passages to a formidable peak before a hushed conclusion.
Mosolov’s Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 6, (1924) has been lost so it is with the Piano Sonata No. 4, Op. 11 (1925) that Olga Andryushchenko commences Disc 2. Some fine rippling phrases quickly gain in power before a slow steady development takes place. The music rises again in power but returns to its quieter stance. This pianist’s terrific phrasing helps this constantly shifting and evolving music to keep a clarity of structure. Scriabin still keeps a presence through moments of lovely delicacy contrasted against music of great confidence and power, constantly building from quieter moments before descending to a hushed coda on two solitary notes.
Turkmenian Nights – Phantasy for Piano (1929) is in three sections commencing with Andante con moto that brings rapidly rising and falling phrases over which a theme is heard. There is more formidably fine playing from Andryushchenko in music that brings fierce forward driving drama. There are moments where there are dissonant, playful little motifs before the opening returns to drive to a sudden end.
The Lento has an insistent little dissonant theme that soon gains in strength as this pianist thunders out the chords. Soon there is a quieter development of the theme before moving through the most complex dissonances. A rapid insistent rhythmic passage is heard before high chords are hammered out and the music falls back with little dissonant outbursts to a strident coda.
The Allegro takes off with a faltering rhythmic idea before moving through passages of intense drive. Soon a gentler passage with rapid little descending phrases arrives before finding a momentum to move to the coda.
Piano Sonata No.5 in D minor, Op.12 (1925) has a four movement structure opening with Lento grave - Allegro affanato which brings a slow beautifully broad theme that soon develops in tempo and complexity through quite lovely quieter passages of great feeling. Later the music rises in drama with passages of strikingly bold phrases, through quite florid moments to a sudden coda.
With the Elegia a rhythmic theme gently and deliberately walks forward through some lovely quiet, perfectly controlled passages. It tries to rise in strength, taking the rhythmic idea forward but returns to its opening pace. Eventually the music manages to find moments of more power but the opening returns to take us to the end.
The Scherzo marziale hurtles in quickly, full of complex rhythms and harmonies as it hurtles forward, this pianist bringing a fine clarity to the textures. The music moves through some formidable passages before suddenly arriving at a quiet, slow moving section before driving to the conclusion.
There is a strength and muscularity in the opening passage of the Adagio languente e patetico as it moves freely ahead, developing the theme through powerful chords. Later rippling phrases appear gently between the powerful phrases but the chords take us ahead, developing complex muscular passages right up to the forceful coda.
These are outstanding performances from Olga Andryushchenko of works that deserve to be heard. The sonatas, in particular, are impressive and, though Scriabin’s spirit runs through much of these compositions they are fine works in their own right.
Olga Andryushchenko is well recorded at the CMS Studio, Mosocw, Russia and there are informative booklet notes. This is a fine addition to the catalogue of 20th Century Russian music.