he artistically, politically and socially fascinating period of transition from Tsarist Russia to the Soviet Union under Stalin is the source of the works on Roger Woodward’s new recording, Music of the Russian Avant-Garde (1905-1926).
After Woodward’s successful re-release of the Preludes and Fugues op. 87 by Shostakovich (Celestial Harmonies 14302-2), dating from 1975, here follows a new recording with a review of little-known compositions that Woodward had kept in mind since his student days in Warsaw in the early ’70s. At that time, he succeeded in getting access to rare works, often almost lost, from the hands of Lina Prokofieva, Prokofiev’s widow, and the archives of the Polish Radio.
These include three exquisite preludes by the son of Alexander Skryabin, Julian, who composed these shortly before his death at the young age of eleven when he had already been a prolific composer. Until his studies of philosophy at Marburg Phillips University around 1909, Boris Pasternak–better known as the author of Dr. Zhivago–had mainly been active as a composer.
This is music with the greatest conceivable span of emotion, from echoes of the late Romantic period to an anticipation of Western European contemporary music that was to follow later in the 20th century, with elements of Russian sacred music of the Znamenny chanting and synthetic chords (sintetakkord), as in the work of Roslavets, and influences of esoteric schools of thought, as they had come to be expressed in the theosophical ideas of the time.
The recital includes works by Nikolai Obukhov (1892-1954), Aleksandr Skryabin (1872-1915), Julian Skryabin (1908-1919), Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), Aleksandr Mosolov (1900-1973), Nikolai Roslavets (1881-1944) and Aleksei Stanchinskiy (1888-1914.
Woodward’s extensive booklet essay gives a good insight into the life and art of the time.