Anatoliy N. Aleksandrov: The Post-Rachmaninovian
Anatoliy Nikolaevich Aleksandrov was born in Moscow on May 13, 1888 and died in Moscow on April 16, 1982. He studied with N. S. Zhilyaev and S. Taneev between 1907 and 1910. In 1916, Aleksandrov graduated from the Moscow Conservatoire, where his teachers were K. N. Igumnov (piano) and S. N. Vasilenko (composition). In 1923 he was already teaching at the Conservatoire and achieved full status in 1926.
His series of piano sonatas and songs are considered to be a significant contribution to Soviet music. The works from the 1920s and early 1930s are perhaps the most interesting, possessing an undercurrent of turbulent romanticism and chromatic harmony coupled with the gift of genuine lyricism and a strength in projection of clear form. At first, Aleksandrov's style was influenced by Rachmaninoff, with some aspects taken from both Medtner and Scriabin. The vocal settings were lavished with detailed and often quite elaborate piano parts ( Aleksandrov was an accomplished pianist), and went beyond simple settings toward a quasi-symphonic experience: the accompaniments are quite emancipated from the vocal line, but strongly tied to it. The numerous song cycles entitled "Alexandrinische Lieder" are his finest achievements in vocal composition. Similarly, some of the chamber music seems to be trying to burst its bounds and move into orchestral textures.
Aleksandrov's music seems unaccountably neglected, given the level of polish and mastery displayed in the scores. He is also the author of a number of articles, valuable among which are reminiscences of Taneev and Rachmaninoff. He was awarded National Artist status in 1971, a Doctorate in the Arts in 1941, and composition awards in 1951 for some of his vocal music. In line with official Soviet policy, Aleksandrov realized a large number of folk settings and arrangements.
The short pieces comprising Op.1 already demonstrate that this is a composer to be reckoned with. Aleksandrov writes shifting left-hand patterns across the "beat" of the right hand, and often bracing across the bar lines. The style is somewhere between Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, and shows an inquisitive mind at work (Figure 13.1). The command of the keyboard is unquestionable, and although this first opus is not unified by a stylistic concept, it is clearly the work of an already accomplished composer.
All the early works deserve to be revived: the Nocturne Op.3, No.1, for example, shows the young composer beginning to grapple with a chromatic language (its weaker companion piece, a Chopin-like Valse of gentle melancholy does not quite measure up