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Nikolay MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Vocal Works - Volume One
Notebook of Lyrics, Op. 72 (1946) [16:44]
Romances on Verses by Mikhail Lermontov, Op. 40 (1935-1936) [31:08]
Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 70 (1946-1947) [20:31]
Tatiana Barsukova (soprano, Notebook)
Elizaveta Pakhomova (soprano, Romances)
Marina Dichenko (violin, Sonata)
Olga Solovieva (piano)
rec. 2007-20
Song texts with English translations.

The year 2021 saw several fine new recordings of Myaskovsky’s music: orchestral pieces and cello and piano sonatas. This disc brings two song cycles and a revised violin sonata, all of them first recordings. Myaskovsky may be best known, if at all, as a composer of forty orchestral works, including 27 symphonies, a cello concerto and a violin concerto. Many of his 13 string quartets deserve greater recognition and presence in the concert hall. Of over a hundred of his vocal works, few have been recorded, so this issue is welcome in the year of his 140th birth anniversary.

The songs here come from Myaskovsky’s mature period. The Notebook of Lyrics comprises the settings of four poems by Mira Mendelson-Prokofieva, his friend’s second wife, and of her translations of Robert Burns’s two poems. (Mendelson also wrote the libretti of Prokofiev’s War and Peace and other operas and ballets.) The first four songs are wonderfully lyrical. This music is touchingly sensitive, sad and wistfully atmospheric, and Tatiana Barsukova’s singing is marvellous, insightful and bright.

There is no trace of Scottish folk music in the Burns settings. In the first of them, I noticed a Russian folk idea from Myaskovsky’s another piece, but he may have been thinking of the Caucasus rather than Loch Lomond.

The Lermontov settings are more substantial. In the Cossack Lullaby (where I detect a theme from Myaskovsky’s 17th symphony), a mother lovingly watches over her child in Chechnya; this is one of the highlights, deeply moving and abundantly voiced by Elizaveta Pakhomova’s soprano. Alone, I come onto the road is a pensive contemplation of death. No, no it is not you I love so ardently is about love lost in one’s youth. To a Portrait is gay and upbeat in describing unfathomable love. All in all, the mood has a kinship with Tchaikovsky’s romances in the enveloping nostalgia and melancholy, but these songs reveal a deeper, more intimate side of Myaskovsky as a composer. They share moods of lost love amid memories of youth, and storms of passion and infidelity. One of the songs tells of a young girl asking her soldier lover not to forget her even in death.

This disc can be recommended just for the vocal works. The late Violin Sonata is a bonus, especially in its final revised version – the work underwent two revisions after its 1947 premiere by David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin. Just a few years ago, there were no recordings of the piece. Remarkably, we now have three superb versions. The other two are by pianist Viktoria Postnikova and violinist Sasha Rozhdestvensky on First Hand Records, and by pianist Mikhail Lidsky and violinist Alexey Lundin on the Moscow Conservatory’s own label (part of a 4-CD issue of complete piano sonatas).

The opening on the piano, fresh and spring-like in its brightness, is sensitively picked up by the violin. The second idea – from one of Myaskovsky’s best symphonies – beautifully reprises the elegiac nature of his Cello Concerto with a wonderful cantilena. In the second movement, the violin introduces a lamenting long drawn-out theme, somewhat similar to an appealing idea from the Harp Concerto by Myaskovsky’s pupil Alexander Mosolov. The familiarity vanishes through the twelve variations as the idea assumes different forms and ends brightly with a coda that bursts with festivity and joy.

Marina Dichenko, a highly gifted violinist from Kharkov, has performed widely in both America and Europe. Pianist Olga Solovieva, a Muscovite, has played extensively in Europe. She picked up the Best Accompanist award at the 2000 Tchaikovsky Competition, as well as silver medals in several international record awards and the first prizes in the Pure Sound for recordings of Russian music.

The 28-page booklet contains very well translated informative notes and full song text translations from Russian into English. This outstanding release is highly recommended. For me, it is one of the finest discs this year.

Gregor Tassie

Notebook of Lyrics, Op. 72 (1946)
Poems by Mira Mendelson
Will I forget you? [1:52]
Like a Sail that flashes at times… [1:29]
Cloudless April Day [2:21]
How often at night… [4:47]
Two settings of Robert Burns, translated by Mira Mendelson
My heart’s in the Highlands [3:04]
My Bonny Mary [3:10]
Romances on Verses by Mikhail Lermontov, Op. 40 (1935-1936)
A Cossack Lullaby [5:23]
Alone, I come to the road… [3:20]
No, it is not you I love so ardently… [2:05]
To a Portrait [1:44]
The Sun [1:37]
They loved each other… [ 2:10]
In an Album [1:28]
Romance [2:40]
She sings… [1:07]
Don’t cry. Don’t cry, my child… [2:58]
From an Album [1:54]
Forgive me! We will not meet again… [4:42]
Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 70 (1946-1947)
Allegro animato [8:41]
Theme (Andante con moto e molto cantabile), Twelve variations and Coda [11:50]

Recording details
25 May 2007, Moscow Theater and Concert Centre (Sonata), 29 April & 29 June 2015, Studio No. 1, Russian Radio House, Moscow (Notebook), 23-24 January 2020, Studio No. 1, Production Complex Tonstudio, Mosfilm, Moscow (Romances)

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