Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Symphony No. 2 (1911) 42.12
Symphony No. 10 (1927) 18.43
Vienna Radio SO/Gottfried Rabl
ORFEO C 496 991 A [60.55]

Miaskovsky's Second is a work of gloomy caste with a gaunt and protesting character you could cut with a knife. The basic 'colour card' spans the gamut of subdued colours. Rhythmically it tends towards reflection offset by a tramping snappy quick-march of a pattern typical of this composer. The overall effect mixes the Tchaikovsky of Symphonies 5 and Manfred, Rachmaninov's The Crag and Isle of the Dead with a hint of Scriabin's Symphonies 2 and 3. The orchestra is ample of girth: triple woodwind, 4 trumpets, 6 horns, 3 trombones, 2 bass tubas and timps. This is a symphony formed from swarthy, hammer-head clouds, anvil strokes, sheets of rain and electric storms.

The performance of Miaskovsky 10 (a work dating from the same year as Knipper's First Symphony and the Mossolov Piano Concerto No. 1) is consistent with the second symphony in its orchestral accomplishment. While No. 2 is in three movements each of about quarter of an hour, No. 10 is in a single compact span. Not altogether strangely the musical language is very close to No. 2: tawny, probing, stonily apocalyptic, grim and resentful and with a touch of Stravinsky (early), Sibelius (trembling strings) and even Debussy.

The recording quality is preferable, by a decent margin, to the Russian Revelation disc (no longer available anyway) which couples symphonies 2 and 22 in performances conducted by Kirill Kondrashin. Rabl (whose name I had not heard previously) runs Kondrashin and the USSRSO very close in capturing the spellbound depressed dramaturgy of it all. We should look out for his name again. I hope Orfeo will record some of the rarer symphonies. We need good recordings of symphonies 4, 14, 20 and 24 for a start. Some (all?) of these have never been recorded.

This is an excellent coupling. You may find the second symphony less difficult listening than the tenth so I suggest you start there. Thank you, Orfeo. Let's hear more.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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