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
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
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.