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Symphonies Nos. 16 And 19

Nikolai Myaskovsky Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Symphonies Nos. 16 And 19 + Myaskovsky: Complete Symphonic Works, Vol.11 / Symphonies Nos. 15 & 27
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Product details

  • Audio CD (7 Jan 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Alto
  • ASIN: B00118S61U
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 313,855 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

ALTO 1022; ALTO - Inghilterra; Classica Orchestrale

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful stuff! 3 Jan 2008
By Jeffrey Davis VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
This is the second release in the Alto issues of Myaskovsky symphonies and all credit to them for picking up the torch after the sad collapse of Olympia (and issuing the remaining CDs at bargain price.)

Symphony 16 is a major utterance by Myaskovsky; written in 1936, at the height of the stalinist purges, it commemorates the loss of the massive aircraft "Maxim Gorky" following a mid-air collision. As such it shows the composer trying to come to terms with the regime by writing more "populist" music. Having said that and unlike some other composers, Myaskovsky never sacrificed his integrity and the symphony retains the familar soulful and introspective characteristics of the introverted composer. The funereal slow movement is a wonderful inspiration and contains one of those haunting Myaskovsky themes which remain in the memory long afterwards. It is one of my favourite movements in the whole cycle of Myaskovsky symphonies.

The 19th symphony for brass band is great fun but also a work of considerable depth, especially in the middle two movements (which Myaskovsky later arranged for conventional orchestra). Svetlanov and the Russian Federation Academic Symphony Orchestra (the rather long-winded name of what was once the USSR Symphony Orchestra), give fine performances of both works. The wonderfully informative notes are by the late Per Skans (whose sad death in 2007 is mentioned in the booklet).

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Myaskovsky's Tuneful Symphonies that elusively went beyond the Soviet's unfathomable artistic requirements. 9 Mar 2008
By David Anthony Hollingsworth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Myaskovsky's Sixteenth Symphony (1935-1936) is one of his most successful compositions and one of his most tightly argued. Dedicated to the Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic Society and premiered by that very ensemble on October 24th with Jeno Szenkar on the podium, the symphony soon became among the composer's most popular symphonies and much talked about since then.

And yet it was recorded only twice to this date, notwithstanding the profound yet beguiling attributes of the work (which takes over where the Fifteenth Symphony leaves off). The first movement is particularly impetuous, melodic, & succinct, not as long-winded as the finale and not a poetic as that of the previous symphony. But it is definitely ear-catching as the Andantino second movement, which, with its ABA format, is graceful á la Tchaikovsky, with some of the woodwind writings that evokes the great Russian. And the appeal of the movement is further enhanced by its middle section, which paints a country landscape at its most imaginative (as Prokofiev wholeheartedly observes).

But it is the third movement (Andante marciale) that have the greatest impact in this whole symphony. A funeral march, a cortège in essence, with the bittersweet middle section, it was written in response to an aviation accident involving a giant Soviet plane, Tupolev ANT-20 (named after Maxim Gorki, a famous Russian writer). And while Tchaikovsky is again evoked (and perhaps even Mahler-listen to the closing bars of the movement), the profundity is for real and not at all calculated at the very least. Its heartfelt introversion is rather inescapable here (and made even more so by the aforementioned middle section, which has that Brucknerian sorrow and sincerity in it). But the finale, however, is quite a different story: buoyant in character comparatively speaking, where Myaskovsky used the melody of his 1931 patriotic song "The Planes are Flying" as its main theme. It is a tuneful, catchy theme, which recurs throughout the movement: the movement that takes its time getting it going before it abruptly reverts to the main idea of the Andantino. But I cannot find fault in Prokofiev's final analysis that this symphony is real art. It shows once again Myaskovsky at his most resourcefulness.

As does his Nineteenth Symphony (1939), which has a rather curious history. According to Manashir Yakubov, in his excellent notes of the composer and his works for strings in the Claves label (CD 50-9415), Myaskovsky attended a performance of his Eighteenth Symphony arranged for band & played by the wind orchestra of the Moscow military garrison. The composer was very impressed for he had never imagined such a possibility and the resulting success the ensemble garnered. After the urging of Ivan Petrov, who was the conductor of the Moscow Calvary Band, the composer tried his hands in composing a symphony for such an ensemble, overcoming issues such as sonorities, textures, and instrumental techniques. The Nineteenth Symphony, as was to become, became the first Soviet symphony of its kind and turned out to be an instant success. It was only later, in 1945, that the composer decided to reorchestrate the middle movements for strings and published them as Two Pieces for String Orchestra op. 46bis. It is a totally agreeable decision on his part, given the pure elegance and sublimity of those movements.

And Svetlanov's 1970 performance of that symphony with the Russian Frontier Guard Band is arguably the best on record, driving the music hard with an euphonious sense of excitability and electricity (their rendition of the last movement is just simply splendid). I may, however, elicit controversy by confessing how much I admire Mikailov's performance with the USSR Ministry of Defense Orchestra (Melodiya/Olympia-nla), even though the inclusion of the harp was never called for in the score. It's Mikailov's poetic treatment of the piece I find the most compelling and mesmeric (especially the middle movements). But Svetlanov is never short of excellence in the music and the recording is more than acceptable.

As in the case of the Sixteenth Symphony, where his Russian Federation Symphony Orchestra performed with total command, alertness, artistry, and blendedness: the very qualities that are not always guarantees in this series. And Svetlanov clearly outclass Konstantin Ivanov with the same orchestra in some respects, even though the latter has virtues of his own that makes his Melodiya recording a classic in its own right. Svetlanov's take is piquant where needed (in the first movement for instance), though in comparison with Ivanov, a bit too drawn out in both the second movement and the finale. But he scores high in the Andante marciale, where its funereal qualities is brought out with a greater sense of poignancy and profundity. He also has the recording to his advantage, which is of exceptional clarity that is likewise not always a guarantee in this series. But despite a qualm or two, this release is a welcome in every way.

I would like to take a moment in remembering Per Skans who passed on in January of 2007. His knowledge in music especially of Soviet Russia remains essentially unchallengeable for its depth and perspective. I remember having a nice series of correspondences with him a couple of years ago regarding my plans to do a biography of Nikolai Myaskovsky. Needless to say, I still cherish those moments. My sincere condolences to all.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Magnificent Disc 27 Aug 2009
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Nicolai Myaskovsky began his Symphony No. 16 following the crash of a Soviet plane named "Maxim Gorky" which had collided with another plane in May 1935. The plane was quite a phenomenon being the size of a jumbo jet. Myaskovsky's symphony became known as the "Aviation Symphony" but there is no program directly to the Maxim Gorky. Instead, the composer was inspired by the tragic events. The first movement uses a popular song called "The Airplanes are Flying in the Sky;" it is a lively and dramatic movement opening with a melody suggesting flight. The second is a lyrically pastoral movement, which was inspired by Nicolina Gora where Myaskovsky spent his summers. The third movement is a funeral march announced by brass at the start and the somber melody is developed by the strings. The tone is heroically somber not one of breast beating despair. The march melody returns at the conclusion and the movement fades into silence. The Finale begins on the somber mood of the funeral march but the tempo quickly increases and develops into a dance-like melody. The mood of the first movement returns and after some dramatic chords becomes more somber and ends quietly.

The Symphony No. 19 is for wind band and commemorates the 21st anniversary of the founding of the Red Army. It was composed in January 1939. The music is energetic and joyful, based on Russian folk melodies. The symphony is colorful with an energetic first movement, a charming waltz for the second, the slow movement is a lovely meditative Andante and the Finale is a lively rondo including melodies from the prior movements.

The performances by the Russian Federation Academic Symphony Orchestra conducted by Evgeny Svetlanov are superb. The symphonies of Myaskovsky are engaging works and deserve a far wider audience to say nothing of live performances. Highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Another rewarding installment in this important series, but not quite among the best 24 July 2011
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Alto has dutifully taken up where Olympia left off in their series of Myaskovsky symphonies conducted by Evgeny Svetlanov. At a total number of 27, Myaskovsky's cycle of symphonies is probably the largest cycle of symphonies that holds a consistently high quality (partially, perhaps, because Myaskovsky, despite the number of symphonies (+ 3 Sinfoniettas), 13 string quartet and 9 piano sonatas, weren't really an excessively prolific composer - there is no music for the stage, for instance, and indeed relatively little music outside of these three cycles). It would be appropriate if someone dared launch a competing complete cycle as well - not that Svetlanov's is anything but thoroughly satisfying, but this is music of (for a large part) such high quality that it would very much sustain alternative approaches.

Neither the sixteenth nor the nineteenth belong to the most famous of Myaskovsky's symphonies, and cannot really be said to be among his very best either (I thus disagree with the other reviewers here). The sixteenth, from 1935, was for a time subtitled "Aviation Symphony" (the finale employs the composer's song "The aeroplanes are flying in the sky"). It opens with a boldly heroic movement that doesn't quite seem to know where to go - nothing ever outstays its welcome, but the ideas are not among his strongest and they don't add up to anything. The second movement is a romantic, melancholic, but graceful affair - a touching, atmospheric affair. The almost reverent, slow third movement is rather striking, however, and the unusually amiable finale also makes for an interesting conclusion. The playing by the Russian Federation Academic Symphony Orchestra is good (very fine woodwinds) despite a few rough patches and occasional mild sourness in sound.

The relatively short nineteenth is scored for wind band and has as such received a couple of previous recordings. It is in fact very enjoyable and sports some fine, memorable themes even though they don't add up to a very profound work, and the symphony is certainly not among Myaskovsky's most striking creations. The curtly paced and very enjoyable opening movement reminds one slightly of Prokofiev, whereas the Moderato movement sounds almost French in style. The Andante Serioso is very fine and poignant, and the finale a merry riot intermittently juxtaposed with some softer music. It is overall a lighthearted piece (apart from the slow movement, which provides a fine contrast), and it is performed with spirit and panache here. To sum up this is not among the most substantial releases in this series, and surely not the place to start for those just curious about the composer, but it remains overall rewarding and of course a must for anyone who is already into the symphonies.
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