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Nikolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 44 (1938) [38.06]
Mieczyslaw VAINBERG (1919-1996)

Violin Concerto in G minor Op. 67 (1959) [28.43]
Ilya Grubert (violin)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Yablonsky
rec. Studio 5, Moscow State Broadcasting and Recording House, Russia, 27 Feb - 5 Mar 2003
NAXOS 8.557194 [66.49]

This is well worth getting. Perhaps you have taken an interest in Miaskovsky a result of the fine Naxos-Yablonsky CD of his symphonies 24 and 25. This will give you his most romantically turbulent concerto and introduce you to Vainberg's strongly profiled violin concerto.

Polish origins connect these two composers. Vainberg was born in Warsaw. Miaskovsky was born just outside Warsaw. Vainberg was from the generation after Miaskovsky.

Miaskovsky wrote the Violin Concerto in 1938 and dedicated it to its first performer, David Oistrakh. It was Miaskovsky’s first concerto. He prepared himself by studying the violin concertos of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev.

The Miaskovsky is slightly better known than the Vainberg. It has been recorded before. This is the second all digital version of the Miaskovsky. The first is the Repin more mundanely coupled with the Tchaikovsky on Philips 473 343-2. Also you can still buy the mono Oistrakh version on Pearl GEMM CD 9295 (ADD). The Pearl equates in authority to Sammons/Testament in the Delius and Menuhin/Elgar in the Elgar concerto. It embodies an extraordinary performance which all Miaskovskians must have. Hors de combat but still desirable is the deleted Olympia (OCD134 AAD) in which the fiery clear playing of Grigori Feigin is heard with the USSR Radio SO conducted by Alexander Dmitriev. It is coupled with the 22nd Symphony written four years after the Concerto. Not unsurprisingly the tone of the Pearl orchestra sounds, if not meagre, then certainly weedy by comparison with the full bandwidth sound of this version and the Repin/Gergiev.

The Grubert version has plenty going for it. At 17.48 (first movement) the stomped-out rhythm has not before been accentuated with such impact. The dreamy second movement is laden with a sweet allure and is heavily fragrant with gentle nostalgia (4.02; 8.03). The Prokofiev-like fairytale atmosphere is prominent at 4.32. After the white impetuous argent lightning of those opening gestures a cavalleresco passage rears up rather akin to the Nielsen counterpart. The glittering accompaniment is strangely typical of Rodrigo. This is a lovely recording with room for a sweet and steely delicacy.

After such a hungrily nostalgic concerto the Vainberg sounds very modern and knowing. The 'olde worlde' innocence is banished by a ruthless hunt. The aggression and sourness is not far removed from Shostakovich. The violin has become hunter and sometimes hunted with the music goaded on by a sort of lyric hysteria.

The second movement is touched with the ruminative tragedy of the great and Shostakovich symphonic adagios. The third movement is a deeply impressive lament musing slightly sourly as if a distillation of sad fanfares ringing out across desolate battlefields. For the finale it is as if Vainberg realises he does not have the freedom to end a concerto like that. Instead we have something militarily determined but with a glint in the eye. It works itself up into a manic energy but the work ends daringly with a submissive gesture.

The Vainberg was recorded on Melodiya by its dedicatee the unfairly overshadowed Leonid Kogan. That recording was issued on an EMI LP and Olympia have reissued it and added its original coupling, the Fourth Symphony with the Moldavian Rhapsody as a filler. Kogan's version has much the same standing as Oistrakh's of the Miaskovsky and although the recording quality gulf is not as wide similar merits and demerits apply. Kogan's reading has the creator/collaborator's authority. In his hands the concerto blazes, snivels, laments and exults. I would not want to be without it yet there is room for Grubert.

Naxos have also done us proud with the notes. They are by Olympia's usual provider, Per Skans. He is generous with fresh details of the two works.

What next from this source: the Shtogarenko and the Steinberg? We can hope.

All in all another of Naxos's successes. This is an audacious partnership both between the artists and the juxtaposition of two grand concertos from adjoining generations one firmly rooted in romantic tradition the other having its world marked out by the tragedy of two wars, oppression and pogrom.

Rob Barnett

see also Nikolai MIASKOVSKY A Survey of the Chamber Works, Orchestral Music and Concertos on Record By JONATHAN WOOLF


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