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Nikolai MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Silence  op. 9 (1910) [21:26]
Sinfonietta in B minor op. 32 no. 2 (1927-31) [27:16]
Divertissement op. 80 (1948) [26:02]
Russian Federation Academic SO/Evgeny Svetlanov
rec. 1991-93, Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory. DDD
volume 16 in the Myaskovsky Edition
ALTO ALC 1042 (Olympia OCD 746) [75:05]

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Nikolai MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Alastor Op. 14 symphonic poem (1912) [25:20]
Lyric Concertino in G Op. 32/3 (1928-29) [21:35]
Sinfonietta Op. 68/2 (1946) [30:06]
Russian Federation Academic Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov
rec. 1991-93, Great Hall, Moscow Conservatory. DDD
volume 17 in the Myaskovsky Edition
ALTO ALC1043 (Olympia OCD747) [77:20]
Experience Classicsonline


ALC 1042

With the Myaskovsky Altos ALC 1021-1024 (symphonies: 15/27; 16/19; 17/21; 23/24) safely in the bag Regis-Alto have completed the Symphonies series begun by Olympia in 2002. Having done so they promptly began the final lap with ALC 1041 presenting Svetlanov's excellent recordings of the non-symphonic works.

First on the present disc we hear Myaskovsky’s early tone poem Silence. It stands in the grand tradition of Balakirev's Thamar, Rachmaninov's The Crag and Isle of the Dead and Glazunov’s The Sea and The Forest. It is here most beautifully performed and recorded. A potent mood and atmosphere piece, it needs careful attention to poetic fervour and dramatic tension. This it gets, as you can hear, for example, from the least demonstrative episodes. Try the lengthy mid-section from 09.10 where typical Myaskovsky hallmarks blend with filmic detailing of such fine precision that one comes away in wonder at the achievement. This warrants your closest attention. Silence is based on a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. It was his second orchestral work - coming after the First Symphony.

The Sinfonietta for Strings is one of a trilogy of orchestral works - the only ones he wrote during 1927-31. It was dedicated to fellow composer Alexander Goedicke. Its three movements recall variously the Prokofiev of the Classical Symphony, a sort of Russian equivalent of the Elizabethan Serenade alongside some plangent yet fragile violin solos. The epic Andante is playful as well as touching and sometimes redolent of Ireland's Downland Suite. But it continues to deepen and gain in complexity: wailing, lingering and nuanced. The finale has the onward rush of  a typical Myaskovsky cavalry charge - look to the 21st symphony which often joined the Sinfonietta on world tours in the 1930s and 1940s. Svetlanov keeps the flow spontaneously responsive.

In the Divertissement we encounter another big three movement work but written towards the end of his life and at a time when he was very much under State criticism. The Allegro Non Troppo has some of the sumptuous stagecraft of a Tchaikovsky ballet as well as that of the big set-pieces in Prokofiev's War and Peace. And with Myaskovsky there is always that melancholy wink and touching aside. When you expect custom and hackneyed closure he surprises you with an emotional coup. This music is light on the palate and redolent of Barber's Souvenirs and Tchaikovsky's Mirlitons - yet a much more delicate and elusive bloom. 

Just one more volume will see the culmination of the Myaskovsky Alto series and the completion of a major project started by Olympia. I wonder if Alto will be tempted to reissue the original Olympia issues of the symphonies - all nine of them?

The notes are by Jeffrey Davis which guarantees us good research and plenty of the detailed context we missed from the Warner bargain box.

 Myaskovsky continues to surprise and reward.
 

ALC1043

So we come to the final piece of the Myaskovsky Edition begun by Olympia in the early years of this decade, halted by the collapse of the label and then revived and continued without a missed beat by Alto (an imprint of Regis). Throughout the original project the guiding mind was that of Evgeny Svetlanov and he is the conductor for all the works featured.

As can be seen, with this final trilogy we have works from every stage in his career. Alastor has some kinship in mood with the tone poem Silence which can be heard on ALC1042 and came from the year before Alastor. The music is dark, partly gloomy Tchaikovskian, part Baxian and part Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead. Myaskovsky’s trademark lyrical contours are present. This stern and lustrous major symphonic piece is contemporaneous with the Third Symphony. It is the concentrated essence of tragic romance – apt to Shelley’s ‘Alastor’ or for that matter Byron’s ‘Manfred’. It ends in a masterly fading shimmer. After such angst - which perhaps reached its most intense expressive point in the Thirteenth Symphony - we come to the playful Allegretto and Allegro giocoso of the Lyric Concertino for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, harp and strings. Those two outer movements are like a Soviet echo of Beethoven’s Pastoral. They flank a musing meditative Andante monotono. The late four movement Sinfonietta is for string orchestra alone. It is akin to the work of a Soviet Grieg – a melancholy Holberg Suite. Only in the introduction to the Allegro con fuoco does he hint at the mayhem and grief of the war just ended. Myaskovsky never falls into tawdry and in that last movement he produces a lovely melody and spins it with seemingly endless grateful invention. It’s also ever so slightly Elgarian in the manner of the Introduction and Allegro yet with a silvery lightning that lends a far from Edwardian glow.

The notes are by Jeffrey Davis which is our warranty of accessible style and rewarding substance.

I wonder if Alto will be tempted to reissue the original Olympia issues of the symphonies - all nine of them?

We now have the culmination of the Myaskovsky Alto series and the completion of a blessedly ambitious project.
 

Rob Barnett  

 


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