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Miaskovsky: Chamber Works

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Orchestra: St Petersburg Chamber Ensemble
  • Conductor: Roland Melia
  • Composer: Nikolay Miaskovsky
  • Audio CD (23 April 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ASV
  • ASIN: B000025UCA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 245,073 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Nikolai Miaskovsky (1881-1950) was a near-exact contemporary of Stravinsky, but isn't nearly as famous in the world of classical music. This is a shame, as Miaskovsky wrote much music that could find an audience willing to try out a different name, if audiences had the motivation to look for him. This CD presents one side of Miaskovsky, all works of his for string orchestra, all of them very warmly appealing. Miaskovsky was in no way an avant-gardist, and is "conservative" in its language in that sense, yet not in any pandering or condescending way. The music has a melancholy streak in the slower sections, and in the final variations of the "Theme and Variations", I detected a quick reference to the final scene of Mussorgsky's "Boris Godounov", the 2-note descending motif from the simpleton's lament for Mother Russia. There's no date on the "Theme and Variations", however, so one can't be sure if this was perhaps Miaskovsky's very veiled message to the world that the USSR wasn't the paradise its propagandists claimed that it was.

All of the works receive very fine performances from the St. Petersburg Chamber Ensemble and their conductor, Roland Melia. Perhaps the one reservation about the music generally is that one doesn't find "big tunes" like in comparable string works by Tchaikovsky, whose "Serenade for Strings" would be the obvious comparison. Miaskovsky's language is, again, very accessible and appealing, and the short melodic fragments certainly conjure up a gently warm atmosphere, but those fragments never quite cohere into a melody that one finds oneself humming. However, even with that limitation, Miaskovsky had a stronger vein of melody than Stravinsky. This CD is definitely worth an exploration off the beaten path, for lovers of string orchestra music.
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