WORKS: Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Trio No. 3; Piano Trio No. 4
PERFORMER: Trio Fontenay
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-82017-2
The gradually expanding discography of Nikolai Roslavets has tended to suggest that this refined, sensitive and exploratory figure, suppressed under Stalin, was in fact one of the major creative artists of the early Soviet era. These discs, concentrating on his most radical period in the early Twenties, vividly confirm that impression. Roslavets’s hothouse chromatic idiom obviously stems from Scriabin, but his proto-serial techniques – melody and harmony derived from and unified by a ‘synthetic chord’, and highly inventive transformation of basic themes – impart an impressive cogency and purpose to such turbulent, passionate works as the Cello Sonatas and the wild, driven Trio No. 2. Even the Meditation, with its motoric, Prokofiev-like middle section and tragic climax, is far more complex and engrossing than the title suggests.
Ivashkin’s apparently authoritative Chandos notes assert that Roslavets wrote three piano trios; the Trio Fontenay’s release suggests there are four. No. 4 (1927), by far the most substantial at 37 minutes, has an epic sweep, a wider harmonic palette (occasionally Roslavets reminds British ears of late Frank Bridge) and a stunning, baleful scherzo that points the way to Shostakovich.
Ivashkin has previously recorded Dance of the White Girls for Manu; the Preludes feature on Marc-André Hamelin’s benchmark Hyperion disc of Roslavets piano music; the comparatively lyrical Trio No. 3 is recorded on Largo by the Clementi Trio. But these new discs, both featuring first-rate playing and recording, are must-buys for enthusiasts of 20th-century Russian music.