During the 1920s Alexandrov fought out within himself the battle for the future of musical aesthetics, before externally this battle became more widespread. He made continued attempts to free himself more and more from the Classical-Romantic tradition (see the piano pieces of Op 27), but his basically late-Romantic stance is almost always evident – as, for example, in the technically (for the pianist) very demanding Three Studies
Op 31, of 1925, where the emotional, tritone-suffused last piece takes up the Russian tradition of imitating the mighty sound of bells. The at times unusual sound world of these works is merely imposed on basically traditional musical thoughts. Three decades later Alexandrov wrote about this period: “The impact of ‘modernism’ in my work was at this time, as it had been previously, very experimental, and reflected very little the essential facets of my musical philosophy”. Leonid Sabaneyev recognized this conflict most astutely, but rightly stressed that the value of this music was in no way dependent on its compositional style:
Alexandrov possesses simultaneously the typical characteristics of both the academy and the salon. He is without doubt a composer who is concerned with style and whose compositional technique is perfect. There are no particular innovations in the dreams of this art, which is tightly locked in a world of old traditions, and in which occasional concessions to the modern era sometimes ring out shyly. […] Located somewhere between the two extremes of the innovators and the extreme conservatives, he is held in equal esteem by both camps. A certain anaemic quality, a lack of fiery emotion, a rational approach to composition, that is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm, distinguishes his lyricism from that of Rachmaninov. […] Yet Alexandrov must be considered as one of the most powerful composers of our time and on a par with Myaskovsky, who is likewise little tempted by innovation and is equally devoted to the unwritten rules of ‘old music’.
from notes by Christoph Flamm © 2002
English: Roland Smithers