Clear performance by pianist Geoffrey Madge
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
The explosion of creative powers which manifested itself after the October Revolution had been anticipated years before: Kandinsky, Malevich, Chlebnlkov, Majakovsld, Mandelstam, Roslavetz, Stravinsky and Lourie had revealed themselves as innovators before the First World War.
It was obvious that modern Russian (and incipient Soviet) art had become inseparable from that broad avant-garde movement which then had Europe gasping. After the Revolution, Lenin began building a new State apparatus. He named Lunacharsky People's Commissar for Education and Culture, and Lunacharsky in turn drafted other artistic radicals into the Ministry as subcommisars. Meyerhold was put in charge of theater, Kandinsky became Commissar for Visual Arts; the composer Lourie -People's Commissar for Music-was charged with consolidating disparate trends and with restructuring the music publishing Industry.
After the Revolution, two artistic trends coalesced; the left wing consolidated in the organisation 'Proletkult'. Its goal was to bring the most advanced artistic movements - especially Futurism - to the working class, and to help engender a socialist art befitting new conditions. The partisans of Proletkult were convinced that 'proletarian culture must conform to the character of revolutionary socialism, so that the proletariat can arm itself with new knowledge, organize its feelings with the help of the new art and alter its relationship to life in a new, truly proletarian -collectivist-spirit'.
The most spectacular of the Proletkult initiatives are still remembered: experimental concerts in which sirens, steam whistles, foghorns and sometimes even airplanes and machine guns were intended to express new industrial rhythms. The principle of collectivism in music rules in Persimfan, a short-lived attempt to have an orchestra without conductor. 5uch activities were inspired by Italian Futurism; its pioneer Marinetti was known even in pre-revolutionary Russia.
While composers such as Alexander Mossolov at first subscribed to the principles of Proletkult (for instance in his futuristic IRON FOUNDRY, op. 19), other modern composers remained skeptical. They objected mainly to the attempts of Proletkult partisans to impose their attitudes from above onto 'proletarian art'. Such composers as Roslavetz and Lourie were also leery of a strict equation of social and aesthetic progress. As time went on, Proletkult and other left-wing cultural organisations felt increasing political pressure. As early as 1908, Lenin (in his book Materialism and Empiric-Criticism) had dealt with the ideas of Alexander Bogdanov, the theoretician of Proletkult, and -while Proletkult tended to become a 'state within the state'- sought to apply the brakes.
In a draft resolution of October 1920, Lenin says: 'It is not a question of inventing a new proletarian culture, but of developing the best traditions and achievements of the existing culture, as seen from the Marxist perspective, and in the light of conditions of life and struggle under the proletarian dictatorship'. Until Lenin's death, modern art could develop rather freely. (It was only after 1924 that Stalin began to liquidate all revolutionary artists' organisations and annihilate modern art in form and content.)
Independent of Schonberg and the Viennese school, Russian composers hammered away at the limits of tonality and developed their own ways of composing with tone rows. Efim Golyshev and Nicolai Roslavetz each created his own Iwelve-tone-method. Other composers, inspired by Futurism, Mossolov, for instance, focused on the musical emancipation of noise and the liberation of rhythm as an element of form. The groundbreaking achievement of this pre-and early-revolutionary epoch might have developed into one of the most vital strains in modern European music.
Socialist Realism, which gained more ground from the '20s on, and was based on the taste of the late 19th century bourgeoisie, ended the development of modern music in the Soviet Union. Still, in certain late works of Prokofiev or Shostakovich, one can hear murmurs of a past cut off from its future by bourgeois cultural policies.
On five CD's to be issued over the next two years, Geoffrey Madge documents one aspect - piano music- of this frenzy of innovation which seized the composers of the young Soviet Union.
Alexander MOSSOLOV was born in Kiev In 1899 and died in Moscow in 1973. Between 1921 and 1925 he studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Miaskovsky and Prokofiev. Until 1929 he was a producer at Soviet Central Radio before leaving to travel to remote Soviet Republics in search of indigenous folk music. His early works are rooted in Russia's late Romantic period. Afterwards he turned to a hard, mainly linear style with sharp rhythmic accents typical of the works of Prokofiev and Shostakovich In the same period. From the late '20s on, folk influences began to dominate his style. Mossolov wrote -as far as we know- 4 operas, 6 symphonies, 4 solo concertos, 2 string quartets, 4 orchestra suites, the machine-music piece Iron Foundry and numerous songs and cantatas, most employing folk melodies from Soviet republics. He also is believed to have written five piano sonatas and other chamber music. His Sonata Nr. 2 op. 4, was composed between 1923 and 1924. In the third movement, Allegro tumultuoso - infemaie, one can hear futuristic influences in the form of motoric, machine-like rhythms.
Nicolai N. ROSLAVETZ was born in 1 881 in Dusatino in the Ukraine. From 1902 to 1912 he studied composition and harmony at the Moscow Conservatory, and in the '20s did editorial work at the state music publishing house in Moscow. He also edited the magazine Muzykai'naja Kul'tura where he defended modern music and took a stand against composers who parroted empty tonal formulae. As a composer he strove to develop a system of organizing tones which expressed itself in chromatic note complexes. In some of his pieces he works with symmetrical tone rows which are revealed over the course of the entire work[l, 1+2, 1+2+3, etc.), so that the row plays a motivic role. In later years Roslavetz wrote simple political songs which brought him no benefits. Roslavetz, a Marxist and partisan of the Viennese school, withdrew to Taschkent where he wrote folkloristic ballets and choral works. He died there in 1942. Besides two symphonic poems and a violin concerto, he mainly wrote chamber music. His DEUX POEMES were written in 1920. Stylistically, these two miniatures stand between Scriabin's Preludes and Schonberg's expressionistic piano pieces. Here Roslavetz works systematically with tone complexes which are transposed and varied when repeated.
Although Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH-born in 1906 in Petrograd-was the Soviet Union's most widely played composer, his radical early works are almost never performed. He studied in Petrograd (the future Leningrad) and subsequently taught composition at the conservatory there. Later he also taught in Moscow. No other composer has been so lionized and officially criticized both. The attacks peaked in 1 936 with Pravda's review of his opera Lady-Macbeth of Minsk which was called a 'model for anti-Soviet, bourgeois, decadent music', in 1948, when Culture Minister Shdanov was keeping composers in line, Shostakovich again came under attack. The composer's works are as contradictory as the events of that time; his symphonies ore far more conservative than his chamber music. He died in 1975 in Moscow.
The First Piano Sonata op. 12 ( 1 926) is one of the young composer's most advanced works. The first and third movements burst with energy, yet are rigorously structured. In the first movement, a twelve-tone theme is developed in various ways. After a songlike second
movement, the third returns to the hammering rhythm of the first, which climaxes with a harmonic snowball effect extraordinary for that time.
The Ten Aphorisms, written a year later, reveal the young composer's full technical and stylistic palette, from introverted lyricism to sarcasm expressed via sudden changes in rhythm and abrupt melodic leaps.
The Sonata no 2, op. 61 was written in 1942, the year the fascist armies stood outside Moscow and Leningrad was practically surrounded. The work is a counterpiece to the First sonata, with which it shares the three-movement form as well as the building-block or mosaic-like motivic construction. In the Second Sonata he uses this latter method to bled Russian late romanticism with neo-classicism.
Geoffrey Douglas MADGE was born in 1941 in Adelaide, Australia. After studying at the local conservatory he went to Europe where he soon distinguished himself as an interpreter of new music, presenting some of the most difficult modern piano pieces alongside exemplary classical and romantic works. His interpretive smarts have been displayed on numerous recordings and radio broadcasts. Madge, who since the early '70s has taught at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, is also composer of instrumental and electronic music.
Except for Shostakovich's Second Sonata, the pieces on this CD were first released on lp in 1978 (BVHAAST 025), This reissue is the cornerstone of this new series dedicated to mostly unknown piano music of the young Soviet Union.
- Konrad BOEHMER (translation: Claudia von Canon, Kevin Whitehead)