Steffen Schleiermacher / Johannes Kalitzke

Alexander Mosolov: Iron Foundry; Piano Concerto No. 1

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From German pianist Steffen Schleiermacher, along with various fine collaborators, comes a set of major rediscoveries. The Soviet Russian composer Alexander Mosolov has been mostly known for The Iron Foundry, Op. 19 (1927), an orchestral work from the brief vogue for Futurism that also produced Honegger's Pacific 231. That piece is included here, along with another, wittier excerpt from the same ballet (Steel), entitled The Tractor's Arrival at the Kolkhoz. This is not the grim chunk of socialist realism that might be supposed, but instead is a cheeky bit of satire of which the young Shostakovich would have been proud. Mosolov and Shostakovich met a similar fate: both were denounced by Stalin's cultural machinery, and Mosolov landed in jail. His later works were folkloric in nature rather than engaging with the times as Shostakovich did, and his earlier pieces were gradually forgotten. The Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 14, in fact, was lost for many years until a copy was found at a Vienna publishing house. With its exuberantly varied first movement, encompassing the Dies Irae melody, motor rhythms, and Gershwin-like jazz in a coherent structure, it can stand with any piano concerto of the era. Equally good are the Legend for cello and piano, Op. 5, which subverts the Romantic character piece in the cello with a gruff, more percussive and dissonant piano part, and the delightful Four Newspaper Announcements, Op. 21 (1928), settings of classified ads from Izvestiya. These sound as if they might have been written 50 years later. The Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 3, is a more straightforward work that could be taken for Prokofiev. Schleiermacher and conductor Johannes Kalitzke, leading the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, have gotten to know these works well, and they succeed in making you want to hear much more of this fascinating composer. Bravo.

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