The First Sinfonietta has inflections cloned from Prokofiev's
Classical Symphony, Elgar's Introduction and Allegro and Grieg's
Holberg Suite. In the hands of Melia and the St Petersburgers (a smaller
band than Claves' Kremlin ensemble) the Mephistophelian serenade macabre
for solo violin glares and f'lares. ASV treat us to a more technicolour
effect than Claves. The microphone array crowds in on the players stressing
layers of detail. Oddly though, the breathy and lapping pulse of the second
movement of No. 1 does not proceed as easily as the pliable Rachlevsky version.
Also the ASV has a shorter playing time than the Claves (CD 50-9415). The
ASV sports a glitzier sound picture with a shimmer and closer brilliance
which might be tiring to some ears though it was very agreeable in the case
of the Sinfonietta. The coupling differs also. The ASV and the Claves both
include the Two Pieces (1945) and the Sinfonietta No. 1. In
the Presto finale the parallels with Mossolov's 'brutality' are stronger
in Rachlevsky's hands.
The Theme and Variations follow the end of the Presto
with too short a break. The theme is dignified and Miaskovsky probes and
searches it out in the andante making of it a lushly romantic episode.
Otherwise the style is pretty consistent with elegiac Elgarian edginess and
Last Spring sorrow with a trace of Slav accent.
The Andante Serioso of the Two Pieces rambles
imperturbably around a theme that is part Skye Boat Song and part
that lovely andante tune from Prokofiev's Classical. He is
even given to tripping gently into Tallis territory. The
Moderato is daintily graceful with a modest sweep and an emotional
exhilaration owing something to Prokofiev's psychological waltzes as in
Onegin and War and Peace. I urge you to hear this wonderful
music. How difficult it can be for a composer to end a piece. In the
Moderato Miaskovsky pulls off an utterly convincing closure - all
The notes by conductor, Roland Melia, are not as rewarding or wide-ranging
as those for Claves.
The ASV and the Claves are not exact matches and it would be a pity to miss
out on the Theme and Variations. If you must have only one then the
Claves is the one to choose .... this time!