As late as 1982 Soviet musicologists claiming any significance for Nikolay Roslavets were vigorously suppressed. Only in 1990 was his unmarked grave identified. How many scores were lost when his flat was ransacked just after his death in 1944? The ruthless vengeance of a reactionary proletariat—branding Roslavets, himself born of peasant stock and a fervent 1917 revolutionary, a mere pedlar of bourgeois ‘art for art’s sake’—has fortunately now given way to a gradual recognition of the very real significance of this ‘Russian Schoenberg’.
In the hours of the New Moon is an early work, probably dating from Roslavets’s student days at the Moscow Conservatory. Already present is a developed musical awareness, as French Impressionism and the heady orchestral textures of Richard Strauss are subsumed into a Scriabin-esque unity of considerable stature.
The Chamber Symphony of 1934/5 (not to be confused with the 1926 fragment of the same name which was reconstructed and recorded in the 1990s, before the manuscript of the present work was discovered) is without doubt Roslavets’s most significant symphonic work. Here recorded for the first time, this major work employs nine solo woodwind, two horns, trumpet, piano, string quartet and double bass to great effect. The closest analogy is perhaps to Schoenberg’s first Chamber Symphony (similarly scored), but alongside elements of conscious homage Roslavets adds his own magical sprinkling of Russian folksong, sardonic worldliness and symphonic jazz.
On his appointement in 2003 Ilan Volkov was the youngest-ever Chief Conductor of a BBC orchestra. His recording of works by Janácek (CDA67517) with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 2005 caused something of a stir: ‘The gifted young Israeli conductor Ilan Volkov masterminds a laudably disciplined and full-throated account of this bracing rarity … Hyperion’s glowing natural sound-frame (courtesy of the Keener/Eadon production team working within Dundee’s Caird Hall) sets the seal on a first-rate anthology’ (Gramophone).
This new recording is their second collaboration for Hyperion.