Alexander Mosolov

Born 11 August 1900. Died 11 July 1973
Alexander Mosolov
Alexander Mosolov

Alexander Mosolov Biography (BBC)

Alexander Mosolov could stand for a whole generation of Russian experimental artists whose ideals were thwarted by historical forces. He was born in Kiev in 1900 but brought up in Moscow in a cultured middle-class artistic family: his mother sang at the Bolshoi, his stepfather was a painter. Mosolov welcomed the Bolshevik Revolution and between 1918 and 1920 served in the Red Cavalry on the Polish and Ukrainian fronts. He then studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Glière and Myaskovsky, graduating in 1925.

An accomplished pianist, his five piano sonatas (1923–6) put him at the forefront of revolutionary modernism. Other notable works from this period include his Piano Concerto No. 1 (1927), which could be compared with the wilder experiments of Krenek and Hindemith, and such provocative miniature songs as Four Newspaper Advertisements (1926) to texts taken from the newspaper Izvestia and Three Children’s Scenes (also 1926) to his own words (the child in question is a dirty, revolting creature). Most famous internationally was his orchestra piece The Foundry (1927). Many other pieces composed in this period were lost when a suitcase full of his scores was stolen.

Mosolov became a victim of the ideological battle between the radical Association for Contemporary Music, of which he was an enthusiastic member, and the more conservative Russian Association for Proletarian Musicians. He found himself on the losing side and was soon being denounced as an ‘enemy of the people’. For many years after 1928 none of his music was publicly performed and in 1932 he wrote personally to Stalin asking either for a chance to be heard, or to be allowed to work abroad. He received no answer, and his career continued to go downhill. In 1936 he was expelled from the Composers’ Union for drunkenly brawling in a restaurant and then in 1938 arrested for ‘counter-revolutionary activities’ and condemned to eight years’ forced labour. After an appeal by his former teachers he was released a year later, his sentence commuted to a five-year exile from Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev.

In 1930 he had first travelled to Central Asia, and his explorations of folk music in these regions were to prove his personal, if not musical, salvation. He made several further journeys to the Asiatic Republics of the USSR collecting folk music and making use of it in an approved, safe style and on subjects that could not be criticised. The titles of some of his later works tell the whole sad story: Glory to the Red Army, Symphonic Pictures from the Life of the Kuban Cossack Collective Farmers, Welcome the Harvest, Glory to Moscow. Mosolov continued to compose in this harmless style until his death in Moscow in 1973, his early modernism completely forgotten.

Profile © Andrew Huthx

Alexander Mosolov Biography (Wikipedia)

Alexander Vasilyevich Mosolov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Васи́льевич Мосоло́в, Aleksandr Vasil'evič Mosolov; 11 August [O.S. 29 July] 1900 – 11 July 1973) was a Russian composer of the early Soviet era, known best for his early futurist piano sonatas, orchestral episodes, and vocal music.

Mosolov studied at the Moscow Conservatory and achieved his greatest fame in the Soviet Union and around the world for his 1926 composition, Iron Foundry. Later conflicts with Soviet authorities led to his expulsion from the Composers' Union in 1936 and imprisonment in the Gulag in 1937. Following an early release, which had been argued for by his Conservatory teachers, Mosolov turned his attention to setting Turkmen and Kyrgyz folk tunes for orchestra. His later music conformed to the Soviet aesthetic to a much greater degree, but he never regained the success of his early career.

Mosolov's works include five piano sonatas (only four of which are extant), two piano concerti (only one movement exists of the second piano concerto), two cello concerti, a harp concerto, four string quartets, twelve orchestral suites, eight symphonies, and a substantial number of choral and voice pieces.

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