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NIKOLAI MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950) Cello Concerto in C minor (1944) 36.49, Cello Sonata No. 1 in D major (1946?) 20.09, Cello Sonata No. 2 in A minor (1949) 21.58   Kyrill Rodin (cello), Andrei Pisarev (piano), Russian PO/Konstantin Krimets ARTE NOVA Classics 74321 54464 2 [79.07] superbargain price



We should not hold against the cello concerto that it won the Stalin Prize. It is a challengingly elegiac work (written six years before the composer's death and in the depths of Second World War); predominantly slow and ruminant; aristocratically sad in a Medtnerian fashion. There is little circus showmanship or obvious blood-tingling excitement. The music is subtle and the leaves of Autumn settle across its subdued landscape in a soft golden rain. The sombre splendour of the lower strings and plaintive bassoon bring clear parallels with the clouded concentration of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique whose last movement is virtually carried on by the first movement of the Miaskovsky work. The Concerto ends in the high harmonics of the strings - a magical atmosphere for those prepared to persist with a work which is a rhapsodic poem for cello and orchestra rather than a virtuosic display vehicle (though there is a jerkily heroic quick section in the middle of the work). Rodin and the orchestra seem to be fully engaged by the music and while more celebrity names may claim your attention you would be well advised to try this performance. You will be agreeably surprised especially if you like the Delius concerto ... and the Miaskovsky is a work of greater melodic distinction.

The first cello sonata comes from a few years later than the concerto and also is in two movements. It was written over a period of 24 years. A strongly marked out singing theme is one of the highlights of the work. It also draws on a rich vein of ecstasy in song (e.g. 4.50 in first movement). The last movement has a burning urgency and it is in this movement that I thought the piano could have sounded more rounded. The final bars are wholehearted and heavily accented.

The three movement second sonata is nostalgic (how could it be anything else with Miaskovsky) but also admixes a song in constant flight. The second movement is an andante cantabile which lovers of the Bax and Rachmaninov cello concertos will want to add to their collections. Fleetly quicksilver it flows like molten gold and here Rodin's rich tone pays dividends. The finale is flashy but musically sustaining. All in all, quite a discovery for the adventurer.

The CD could hardly have been better filled although the notes (short and competent) by Yvonne Drynda, could easily have been longer with space for more information. They are in the usual German, English and French.

I would like to have been able to compare it with Olympia OCD530 (Marina Tarasova with the Moscow New Opera Orchestra) but unfortunately a review copy was not available. This is a pity as the coupling is identical. However the Olympia is at full-to-medium price and the present disc is at superbargain.

I am not sure that these works are the best place to start with Miaskovsky although his cello concerto made his name and kept it in the EMI lists for many years with Rostropovich playing and Sargent conducting the RPO.



Rob Barnett

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