Prokofiev/Varese/Mosolov

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev/Varese/Mosolov
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Arcana; Iron Foundry
PERFORMER: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 436 640-2 DDD
Heavy metal was all downhill after this. Alexander Mosolov’s brief Iron Foundry (1928), originally part of a ballet celebrating Soviet industrialisation, kicks off a fascinating survey of Twenties musical brutalism, a general trend that owed as much to the primitivism of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring as to a reflection of the harshness of early 20th-century life. Prokofiev reworked his Third Symphony (1928) from the music for his opera The Fiery Angel. It only really takes a breather in its slow movement – the rest is powerful, motoric and rhythmical. Varèse’s fascinating starscape Arcana (1927) is based more on an exploration of sound for its own sake, though, as in all his music, it is tightly constructed from a motivic point of view – here an idea consciously or unconsciously derived from the ‘Infernal Dance’ of Stravinsky’s Firebird.

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This is an area of music not usually associated with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the Mosolov does sound a little underplayed and over-refined – it needs more of the coarseness of a native Russian orchestra. The Prokofiev and Varèse, though, are stunningly executed. In the Varèse, every detail of this most kaleidoscopic of scores is tellingly delineated and Chailly keeps the momentum going throughout. A similar feeling for dramatic thrust drives the Prokofiev, most thrillingly in the finale, taken from The Fiery Angel’s closing scene of maniacally possessed nuns. Matthew Rye