String Quartet No.1, Op.24
Alexander Mosolov (1900-1973) was born in Kiev but his family moved to Moscow when he was a boy and he grew up there, studying piano and composition at the Moscow Conservatory with Reinhold Gliere and Nicolai Myaskovsky. He was attracted to the so-called Russian Futurist Movement which sought new ways to express melodic and harmonic material. His early works caused him to fall afoul of the Stalinist government and he was imprisoned in the Gulag for several months. After his release, he concentrated on setting the folk music of Kyrgizstan and Turkmenstan into traditional orchestral forms. His compositions from this point on were more conservative as he did not wish to provoke further conflict with the authorities. He composed in most genres and penned at least four string quartets.
String Quartet No.1 was composed in 1926, the year after he graduated from Moscow Conservatory. The opening Andante agitato begins in a mysterious and somewhat threatening fashion. A recurring ostinato rhythm in the cello sets the mood. There follows a thrusting march like theme before the music sinks back into a shrouded atmosphere. Throughout the rest of the movement these brief and powerful storm bursts break through the fog of the Andante with constant tempo changes. The second movement, Adagio, also marked Tempo di gavotta, is a rather slow dance followed by a quicker section before a Largo funebre. Next comes a Scherzo which is nervous and even frenetic. The finale, Allegro risoluto, begins in a wild fashion but like passengers getting out of a car which has suddenly careened off the road, the music slows and is wobbly. Gradually the tempo picks up again and a march episode follows. Constant mood and tempo changes punctuate the movement.