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Nicolai MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
String Quartet No.12 in G major Op.77 (1947) [29:37]
String Quartet No.13 in A minor Op.86 (1949) [24:21]
Taneyev Quartet
rec. St Petersburg Recording Studio, 1981 (No.13) and 1982 (No.12)
Experience Classicsonline

What Svetlanov is to the Miaskovsky Symphonies the Taneyev is to the Quartets. Like that eminent conductor the St Petersburg quartet remains the only one to have enshrined the canon to disc. Admirers of the composer will perhaps remember the pleasantly colourful LP sleeves and will doubtless welcome the appearance of the set on Northern Flowers. Don’t overlook the booklet artwork. This one has a bucolic Beryl Cook-meets-Socialist Paradise feel. Plenty of big pink buttocks and healthy agricultural toil. Not sure what Nicolai Yakovlevich would have made of that.
The Twelfth Quartet was composed in 1947 and dedicated to his pupil Kabalevsky. It opens in rather desolate fashion – I part company with the sleeve notes which finds the work bathed entirely in “luminosity and conciliation” – though when verdant lyricism arrives it does so with plenitude. The lilting vocalised lyricism is wonderfully projected by the Taneyev, songful and unpretentious and extremely, need it be added, well crafted compositionally. The only demerit – too repetitious. The agile fantasy of the second movement has a brooding B section but dappled pizzicati restore equilibrium. Miaskovsky’s internal suggestiveness is epitomised by the utilisation of material from the opening movement in the scherzo’s fugato. There are strong hints of the folkloric in the finale – think of late Dvořák – and a confident, breezy tunefulness pervades all.
His last quartet was written in 1949 and was dedicated to the devoted Beethoven Quartet, who premiered it. Unlike the 1947 quartet this one doesn’t open with an introspective adagio section, but instead plunges headlong into the lyric melee. Miaskovsky was fond of “fantastico” as a scherzo designation and this one is vivacity itself, albeit one tinged with a contrastive Mussorgskian-hued central panel – bronzed and powerful. The refined melodic strength of the slow movement never elides into stolidity though its central section, as so often with the composer, mines even graver sentiments. The finale returns immediately to the brio of the earlier movements. High spirits are paramount.
If you missed the LP then add this and the other individual discs that chronicle the cycle to your shelves without undue delay. The Beethoven (Westminster) and Borodin (Melodiya) both recorded No.13. The Kopelman recording of it has just been released on Nimbus NI5827 coupled with Shostakovich’s First and Eighth Quartets. I hope the latter will go further in pursuing the cycle.
Jonathan Woolf

Myaskovsky review index page


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