Protopopov, Mosolov, LouriŽ & Roslavets

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COMPOSERS: Lourié & Roslavets,Mosolov,Protopopov
LABELS: hat[now]
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Soviet Avant-Garde, Vol. 1
WORKS: Works by Protopopov, Mosolov, Lourié & Roslavets
PERFORMER: Steffen Schleiermacher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ART 104
Steffen Schleiermacher, who has devotedly explored many different forms of modernism and avant-garderie from the early 20th century, here offers a very useful conspectus of the early Soviet (and in Arthur Lourié’s case, pre-Soviet) variety. Scriabin’s influence is everywhere apparent, variously evolving into Mosolov’s gestural brutalism, Lourié’s febrile exquisiteness, or Roslavets’s perfumed proto-serial meditations. (The latter’s Fifth Prelude is a miniature masterpiece of post-Scriabinesque evocation.) Most of the items are separately available elsewhere – indeed, I reviewed most of the Lourié pieces in Daniele Lombardi’s Col legno disc only last month – but they are vividly interpreted here and some purchasers may prefer to have them in an anthology of the times rather than on single-composer discs.

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In any case the largest piece in this recital – the Second Piano Sonata of Sergei Protopopov (1893-1954) – is, I think, a premiere recording. And it’s definitely the scene-stealer: a stunning, if rather hectoring single-movement work, balefully exploring deep bass sonorities, which allows Schleiermacher to build up powerful tensions over a long structural span. It put me in mind – and would stand up well in the company – of Prokofiev, Ornstein, Griffes and Tcherepnin. Protopopov, a Kievan, apparently wrote very little, but on this evidence what else there is would definitely be worth hearing. Subtler readings of some of these works are imaginable, and it’s a rather clangy recording, but without doubt a valuable disc. Calum MacDonald