Nikolai Roslavets

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Piano Trio No.3

Nikolai Roslavets' Piano Trio No.3 was begun in 1921 in Kharov and published in 1925. It is in one big movement with many subsections. While his earlier trios had been characterized by outbursts of tremendous and strident violence, the trio is more lyrical in nature. The entire work is essentially calm and reflective although there are moments of dramatic passion as well.


Nikolai Roslavets (1881-1944) is one of the most important figures and a pioneer in the Russian modernist music movement, which became known as Russian Futurism. He had a traditional enough musical education. He came somewhat late (1902) to the Moscow Conservatory where he studied violin and composition, the latter with Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, no modernist to be sure, among others. Surprisingly, it took him 10 years to graduate (1912). But already by 1910, he was attracting the attention of Russian Futurist painters and writers. Influenced by the later works of Alexander Scriabin, Roslavets sought a new means of expression. Hard to believe but as early as 1907, he created what he called "a new system of sound organization" which was arrived at independently from and before Schoenberg's twelve-tone serialism. It does have several similarities and this led to Roslavets being referred to, as early as 1912, as "the Russian Schoenberg." However, Nikolai Myaskovsky and several other Russian composers, none of whom were modernists, pointed out the original nature of Roslavets' style, which owed nothing to Schoenberg. During the heady days after the Russian Revolution, Roslavets became one of the leading Soviet composers of the New Music Movement and one of its strongest advocates. But after Stalin's rise to power, his music was banned and he was considered an enemy of the State. Roslavets "new system of sound organization" for the most part consists of chords of six to nine tones. In the 1920s Roslavets developed his system further, expanding it to encompass counterpoint, rhythm, and musical form while elaborating new principles of teaching.

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