Gramophone Award Winner 2008 for Best Orchestral Recording!
For anyone coming fresh to the composer and his world, the Warner set provides an extraordinarily economical entrée. -- David Gutman, Gramophone [10/2008]
Nikolay Myaskovsky (1881-1950) was a 20th century Russian composer with one foot in the romantic late 19th century, as was his countryman Sergei Rachmaninov. His orchestral works often have the dramatic sweep and epic quality of the romantics yet within the expressions of our modern age. Myaskovsky was a symphonist, creating 27 such works during his lifetime. He also wrote many string quartets as well as concertos and 9 piano sonatas. During the tumultuous first half of the 20thRead more Century, he became known as the father of the Soviet symphony and these works, not unlike Shostakovich and Prokofiev, often express the individual within the cogs and wheels of life.
The 27 symphonies are not neoclassic throwbacks nor pedantic romantic essays, but richly rewarding, personal works in a grand symphonic tradition that also allows for innovations in form and content. Myaskovsky's musical imagination ranges from morbid and gloomy to exuberant and elated, all endowed with orchestral writing that is appropriate and often colorful.
Among the many highlights in this set are the darkly introspective 4th symphony in three movements, and the contrasting, lyrical and amiable 5th symphony, in four movements. The startling 6th symphony is heard here in the orchestral version. (There are other recordings with the optional choral finale.) The 6th, subtitled "Revolutionary" seems at times reminiscent of Korngold's swashbuckling Hollywood film scores, yet Korngold was not as neurotically gripping as the convulsive "Presto tenebroso" movement, a wild scherzo in all but name, that haunts the memory.
The 8th and 10th symphonies owe inspiration to Russian history while the 12th, subtitled "Collective Farm" is drawn from, as the translated notes tell us, "current events". Yet this work is not just a nod toward official approval from the cultural commissars. In its more emotionally restrained, folk-like mood, it reminds us of similar music by Americans of the 1930s. Symphony No. 16, with its sweeping, heroic first movement and introspective finale was inspired by the crash of a gigantic multi-engine airplane, the Maxim Gorky. Symphony No. 19 is one of the first successful symphonies for concert band. Rarely heard these days, it is a finely written, satisfying piece with appealing melodies. For quite a while, the symphony No. 21 in one movement was his most popular work in the West before fading from the repertoire. This performance, led by the great Evgeny Svetlanov (1928-2002) makes a strong case for its revival. Indeed Svetlanov and the Russian Federation State Symphony Orchestra never lag and give us intrepid, exciting performances throughout. The stereo sound is rich and natural.
Myaskovsky, a deeply introverted, highly creative romanticist may never achieve the popularity of Shostakovich or Prokofiev, but his works are well worth exploring and shed new light on more famous 20th Century Russian musicians. The box set also includes a good selection of other Myaskovsky orchestral works including overtures, suites and tone poems. All in all, this is a set that is destined to become a rarity.
Stunning recordings of marvelous worksJune 29, 2012By Allan Clark (Carlsbad, CA)See All My Reviews"It seems that every Russian composer could write a good symphony or two, but Miaskovsky wrote twenty-seven! He deserves to hold a major place in the Russian symphonic tradition. After listening to these recordings for over a year, I am still discovering new wonders. The works are intricately structured, but deeply romantic and the performances here are stunning. This is one of the most rewarding purchases I've made."Report Abuse