We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Herbert Henck’s 1995 ECM recording of Mompou’s Musica Callada left me spellbound. But that release’s delicate web of tonal shadings, neo-impressionist chromaticism, and gently undulating rhythms is a far cry from Henck’s newest release, a collection of Russian composer Alexandr Mosolov’s virtuoso piano works. This time the music swaggers with dark vehemence, conjuring up images of a tumultuous Soviet past, when the composer’s nonconformist style was subject to the censorship of the Russian Union of Proletarian Musicians. The compositions on this album represent a small fraction of Mosolov’s total output, which includes a symphony, two piano concertos, two operas, and several works for chamber ensembles. In their brilliance and subtlety the piano sonatas, which were composed between 1923 and 1925, embrace the ideas of both Scriabin and Prokofiev. The “B Minor Sonata” is remarkably difficult, requiring extreme dexterity and control. Here, Mosolov uses the classic sonata form as a framework to expand upon growling rhythms and violent emotions, alternately savage and sedate. The “D Minor Sonata” is comprised of four movements: three marked “Lento,” the other a raucous Scherzo that breaks the gloom. Mosolov’s language is decidedly oblique—a mixture of extreme chromaticism matched with cell repetition and motor rhythms. Henck’s interpretation is suitably sensitive to these deeply emotional works. It’s obvious that he enjoys taking full advantage of the piano’s geography, as the lowest bass notes imply both ferocity and resilience and the highest pitches resonate with shrill intensity.