Roslavetz, Nikolai (Andreievich)

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Roslavetz, Nikolai (Andreievich)

Roslavetz, Nikolai (Andreievich) , remarkable Russian composer; b. Suray, Jan. 4, 1881; d. Moscow, Aug. 23, 1944. He received training in violin from his uncle and in theory from A.M. Abaza in Kursk. In 1902 he entered the Moscow Cons., where he studied violin with J. Hřimalý and composition with Ilyinsky and Vassilenko (graduated, 1912; Silver Medal for the cantata Heaven and Earth). In 1921–22 he was director of the Kharkov Cons. From 1923 to 1929 he was a board member of the Assn. for Contemporary Music, and in 1924 he edited the forward-looking but short-lived journal Muzykalnaya Kultura. He also taught at the Moscow Music Polytechnical School (1928–30). A composer of advanced tendencies even in his student years, Roslavetz’s early works were undeniably influenced by Scriabin, but by 1913 he had publ. an atonal violin sonata (No. 1), the first of its kind by a Russian composer. His fully mature Third String Quartet of 1920 exhibits his “new system of sound organization,” an individualized application of multi-tone chords, producing dodecaphonic effects. Roslavetz became a prominent figure of the cadre of advanced Soviet musicians of the 1920s, but with a change of Soviet cultural policy and the adoption of “socialist realism” and nationalism in the late 1920s, he was subjected to severe criticism in the press for persevering in his aberrant ways. By 1930 he had become a musical persona non grata and his name was expunged from musical writings and programs. It was assumed for decades that Roslavetz had disappeared into the black hole of Stalin’s gulags but this was not the case. He failed in his attempt to conciliate the authorities by composing operettas, but was given an opportunity to redeem himself by removing to remote Tashkent to compose ballets on Uzbek folk songs and serve as music director of the Uzbek State Music Theater (1931–33). He then returned to Moscow, where he taught at the Music Polytechnical School (until 1935). From 1936 to 1938 he was repertoire advisor of the Ail-Union Radio Committee. He also wrote music criticism until the first of several crippling strokes disabled him in 1940. His death went unnoticed in a war-torn world, and later the bulk of his works was assumed irretrievably lost. However, interest in his music was initiated by the German musicologist D. Gojowy in the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s the Central State Archives for Literature and Art in Moscow discovered many of Roslavetz’s “lost” works, albeit often incomplete and mostly in short or piano score. Several works were then completed and edited for performance by several Russian composers and musicologists, most notably A. Raskatov and M. Lobanova.


DRAMATIC: Ballet : Pakhta (1933). ORCH .: In the Hours of the New Moon, tone poem (c. 1912–13; ed. by M. Lobanova; Saarbrücken Radio, June 14, 1990); Man and the Sea, symphonic poem (1921); End of the World, symphonic poem (1922); 2 syms.: No. 1 (1922) and No. 2 (not extant); 2 chamber syms.: No. 1 (c. 1922; completed and orchestrated by A. Raskatov) and No. 2 (c. 1938); 2 violin concertos: No. 1 (1925; piano reduction, Moscow, May 29, 1929; full score recovered in 1988 and 1st perf. in Moscow, Nov. 18, 1989) and No. 2 (late 1930s). CHAMBER: Nocturne for Oboe, Harp, 2 Violas, and Cello (1913); 6 violin sonatas: No. 1 (1913), No. 2 (1917), No. 3 (not extant), No. 4 (1920), No. 5 (1922–23; not extant), and No. 6 (c. 1940); 5 string quartets: No. 1 (1913), No. 2 (not extant), No. 3 (1920), No. 4 (not extant), and No. 5 (1941); Poem for Violin and Piano (1915); Music for String Quartet (1916; extant adagio and scherzo movements of a string quartet edited and titled by A. Raskatov); 5 piano trios: No. 1 (not extant), No. 2 (1920; edited by M. Lobanova), No. 3 (1920), No. 4 (1927; edited by M. Lobanova), and No. 5 (not extant); Cello Sonata (1921); Meditation for Cello and Piano (1921); 3 Dances for Violin and Piano (1921); 2 viola sonatas (1925, 1926, both reconstructed by A. Raskatov); Legend for Violin and Piano (1940–41); 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano (1941–42). Piano: 3 Pieces (1914); 3 Etudes (1914); 6 sonatas: No. 1 (1914), No. 2 (1916; reconstructed by Eduard Babasjan), No. 3 (not extant), No. 4 (1923; not extant), No. 5 (1923), and No. 6 (only sketches extant); 2 Pieces (1915); Quasi Poeme (1915); Quasi Prelude (1915); Prelude (1915); 5 Preludes (1919–22); 2 Poemes (1920). VOCAL: Heaven and Earth, cantata after Byron (1912); 3 Pieces for Voice and Piano (1913); Melancholy Landscapes for Voice and Piano (1913); October, cantata (1926); Komsomolija for Chorus and Orch. (Moscow, Sept. 30, 1928).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire