Alexander Mossolov (1900-1973)

  1. Zavod, Symphony Of Machines - Steel Foundry

A movement from the ballet Steel, op. 19, 1926-28, 2'56".

Historical Recording, performed by Orchestre Symphonique de Paris conducted by Julius Ehrlich, from the State Opera in Leningrad

Recording – ca. 1931

Extract from the record label Sounds of New Music, original catalogue number: FW 06160, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Alexander Vasilievich Mossolov (b. Kiev, Ukraine 1900 - d. Moscow 1973), a Russian avant- garde composer considered part of the current of constructivist and machinist music. During the revolutionary period, 1917-1918, he worked in the office of the People's Commissioner for State Control and even had some brief personal contact with Lenin. In 1920, he worked as a pianist for silent films and later was conductor of chamber music for the Association of Contemporary Music and a radio music editor. For the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the October Revolution in 1927, he composed his most famous orchestral work Zavod. Symphony of Machines-Steel Foundry, a movement from the ballet Steel (1926-28), which was written to glorify the era of Soviet industrialization in which "the machine symbolised power and reality: its beauty, the attraction of things objective and inexorable" (Manfred Kelkel). What was radically new in this work was the inclusion of a part written for 'metal sheet' to reflect the noise and clatter of the factory machines, lending the overall work a "barbaric style" - as well as 14" ostinato variations" on a one-bartheme and an extreme concentration of "machine rhythms". It was performed throughout the world (Berlin, Liege, Vienna, the U.S.A. and Paris) and it was at this time, in around 1931, that a recording was made and released on a 10" light-blue-label Columbia disc, by the Paris Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Julius Ehrlich, from which the recording included here is taken. This success abroad contrasted with the persecution Mossolov's works suffered after 1927 at the hands of the Association of Proletarian Musicians (RAPM), representing Stalinism in music. His works were considered "naturalistic" and "decadent", his music contributing to "public drunkenness". He was expelled from the Association of Contemporary Music in 1936 and condemned for making "anti-soviet propaganda", then arrested and sent to labour camps (GULAG) for eight years. Mossolov wrote a letter to Stalin, saying he had been made into "a kind of musical outlaw" when really he was" a loyal Soviet man" . Still he wasn't freed until 1938, after which time he devoted himself to composing and researching the music of Russian and Oriental folksongs. The authorities continued to refuse to allow his works to be performed in public.

Russian Futurists from the GLM Collection (1920-1959)
Sound Experiments in The Russian Avant-Garde (1908-1942)