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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto (1880) [34.34]
Nikolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)

Violin Concerto (1938) [36.53]
Vadim Repin (violin)
Kirov Orchesta, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg/Valery Gergiev
rec. live, 2-4 July 2002, Mikaeli-Martti Talvela Hall, Mikkeli, Finland DDD
PHILIPS 473 343-2 [71.48]



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All credit to Repin and Decca for introducing a new generation to the Miaskovsky concerto. That they have done this with the Tchaikovsky as a coupling betrays the corporate nerves associated with rare repertoire projects. I do not have a problem with that if it delivers a nugget as valuable as the Miaskovsky even if, strictly at a repertoire level, I might have preferred to have say the Shebalin, Shtogarenko, Steinberg, Ivanovs (what a work!) or Taktakishvili instead of the Tchaikovsky.

My shelf choices for the Tchaikovsky include the Oistrakh (BMG-Melodiya), Kogan/Paris Conservatoire (EMI) and even the Campoli - corrupt edition and all. The Repin is a smashing performance taken at speed with intoxicating accelerations and seismic triple fortes. In the first movement at 8.52 Repin shows the torque of a Lamborghini yet maintains the articulation of a watch repairer - speed and the sharpest of etching. The Kogan, for all its ‘grey hairs’, sounds very good while the Oistrakh is marginally more 'controlled' - less volcanic but just as passionate.

As Andrew Huth points out in his notes the Miaskovsky concerto was written between two lighter symphonies - the jollyish Nineteenth for windband and the folk-song Eighteenth. It is a work in which Miaskovsky's penchant for reflective steppe loneliness (try the poetic sections of the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies) meets virtuosity and fantasy. Aristocratic bearing, elegance (try 3.47 in the second movement) and Tchaikovskian passion are part of the picture. Another is its revelling in the exotic veering between the First Violin concertos of Szymanowski and Prokofiev - especially the latter. The Concerto is warmly done and warmly recorded. A typically Russian passion blazes through the work like lighter spirit in a forest fire. The brass are vivid - brash even - without the loveably excessive bray once beloved of Konstantin Ivanov and Boris Khaikhin and the USSRSO.

This is the only all digital version of the Miaskovsky. You can still get the mono Oistrakh version on Pearl GEMM CD 9295 (ADD). The Pearl version equates in authority to Sammons/Testament in the Delius and Menuhin/Elgar in the Elgar concerto. It also happens to be an extraordinary performance which all Miaskovskians must have. Hors de combat but still desirable is the deleted Olympia (OCD134 AAD) in which Grigori Feigin is with the USSR Radio SO condcuted by Aklexander Dmitriev. It is coupled with the 22nd Symphony written four years after the Concerto. Not unsurprisingly the tone of the orchestra sounds if not meagre then certainly weedy by comparison with the full spectrum sound of the Repin/Gergiev.

For those of you who love the Tchaikovsky but gaze askance at the Miaskovsky be reassured - it is a rather old-fashioned and aristocratically romantic work with rattling bravura and overflowing passion. Give it a chance and you will be won over. It is no pocket concerto either - both in duration and mood Miaskovsky intended this work seriously; neither scholarly nor shallow.

These are both high octane readings drawn from live concerts. I did not detect any coughing; no applause either, for that matter.


Rob Barnett


Comparison of movement timings (taken from liners not stop watched)

Oistrakh Feigin Repin
(Pearl) (Olympia) (Philips)
I 18.40 18.57 19.34
II 10.11 10.14 9.39
III 7.40 7.24 7.40



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