Label: CYBELE SACD 160404
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NIKOLAY OBUKHOV (1892 – 1954): Invocation (1916); Deux pièces (1915): Les astrales parlent & Reflet sinister; Conversion (1915); Icône (1915); Création de l´Or (1916); Aimons-nous les uns les autres (1942); La paix pour les réconciliés – vers la source avec le calice (1948); Le Temple est mesuré, l´Esprit est incarné (1952); Adorons Christ – Fragment du troisième et dernier Testament (1945)
IVAN VYSHNEGRADSKY (1893 – 1979): Deux Préludes pour Piano, Op. 2 (1916); Etude sur le Carré Magique Sonore, Op. 40 (1957)
SERGEY PROTOPOPOV (1893 – 1954): Sonata No. 2, Op. 5 (1924)
Thomas Günther, piano
Alexander Scriabin was the most important source of inspiration for the experiments of the young Russian generation of composers, to which the three composers of this SACD release - Nikolay Obukhov (1892–1954), Ivan Vyshnegradsky (1893–1979), and Sergey Protopopov (1893–1954) - can be counted. They belong to the generation of young, avant-garde artists who emerged from the turbulent time which accompanied the revolutionary upheaval of the 1910s in Russia. This period of relative artistic freedom ended abruptly in 1929, when the severe criticism of “revolutionary” composers began. A few artists had left Russia earlier, in the immediate aftermath of the 1917 revolution, and their exile in the West led them not to recognition, but rather to isolation and obscurity, despite support from some prominent sources! The catastrophe that was World War II only helped to keep their music in oblivion. Those composers who remained in Russia awaited a different, but no less tragic, fate: the “need to survive”, i.e. complying with the aesthetic ideal of the Stalinist age. Unpopular people were completely removed from the public consciousness and any trace of them expunged from libraries and reference works. Thus finding scores is an extremely difficult process. In the case of Nikolay Obukhov, for instance, only three pieces were ever published: three piano pieces were issued by Durand, no doubt with the help of Maurice Ravel. The rest of his catalogue languishes in manuscript form in various archives. This SACD release with pianist Prof. Thomas Günther (Folkwang-Hochschule Essen), who is specialized since several years in this kind of repertoire, is the start of a whole SACD series in which important Piano Works during and after Russian Futurism are rediscovered and released for the first time on multiple SACDs.
REVIEW - AUDIOPHILE AUDITION
These three avantgarde composers emerged at about the time of the Russian Revolution and following the death of Scriabin in 1912. There was really no Scriabin School to continue the mystical Symbolist musical theories and practices of the first modernist Russian composer, so each of these revolutionaries went their own way in trying to create new paths for composition that would be appropriate to the struggles of the progressive new Soviet state. Their work became part of the Futurist-Constructivist approach to composition. Of course when the Stalinist regime got established, a new dictum of “socialist realism” became the model and these composers had to leave Russia. They have since been mostly forgotten.
Obuchov created his own 12-tone manner of composition totally unrelated to Schoenberg’s. He conceived of a vast oratorio, evidently stimulated by Scriabin’s unfinished “Mysterium.” In his piano pieces he may have even exceeded the ecstatic expression of Scriabin’s works. He also invented an electronic instrument not unlike Ondes Martenot. His unusual little piano pieces here are divided into those of around 1915 and later ones penned in the 1940s. In his eight-minute piano piece subtitled “Fragment of the Third and Last Testament,” Obuchov appears to again emulate Scriabin’s “cosmic thinking” in suggesting he has a musical sequel to the Old and New Testaments!
Wychnegradsky is best known for his quarter-tone music and the quarter-tone piano he built in Paris in the 1920s on which to perform it. However, his more standard piano pieces here still delve into what he called “ultrachromaticism.” Wychnegradsky was an influence on Messiaen and other young composers in Paris at the time. I found the most interest work on this program to be the Sonata Op. 5 of Protopopov. (Talk about an appropriate name…) Little is known about him except that he restricted his activities to musicology, theory and pedagogy. He relied on Scriabin’s model but had a more futuristic notion of sound - perhaps best translated as a sort of “theory of gravitation.” His three piano sonatas may be the most cryptic of all works in piano literature. His Op. 5 Sonata employs a “static note complex” using austere chordal textures which give the piece a menacing quality, yet not completely driven into atonality. As it intensifies towards the conclusion there is a manical barrage of these chords bringing the work to a ferocious climax. The album has lengthy notes on all three composers and the selections in the program. Cybele’s multichannel sound gives the piano a very natural and realistic position and size on the soundstage. - John Sunie