Until fairly recently Symphonies 4, 14 and 20 were a mystery even to musicologists in the West. Svetlanov's huge 1990's project (rumoured to be at least partly funded from his own pocket) has now made the symphonies of this great Russian composer immediately available. At the present time because of supply difficulties as the Olympia discs go out of circulation and the Alto discs come available, this is probably the best way to buy the music, and it comes out at about £2.63 per disc. The disadvantage is that there are hardly any notes about the composer or his works. If you are reading this you will have access to the internet, so if you put the composer's name into a search engine it will not take you too long to come up with a reasonable amount of information from Wikipedia and from the Myaskovsky home page. But I am still left wondering about some issues. For example, is the magnificent 3 Symphony with its Scriabinesque trumpet writing actually a requiem for that composer (the last seven or eight minutes of the finale are a wonderful funeral march)? Or is a a funeral for a world about to be destroyed (it was written in 1914)? Whatever, this particular symphony is a work of undoubted greatness and is one of the highpoints of the whole cycle.
Given the cumulative distress and pain of the Great War years for Myaskovsky - the shell shock and wounds of the Austrian front - closely followed by service in the Red Army during the Revolutionary War, the murder of his father on a railway platform by a "revolutionary" who became angry because the old man was wearing decorations and insignia from the Tsarist regime (he was, after all, General Myaskovsky), and the death of his aunt during the Petrograd famine of 1921, it is not surprising that the symphonies 4, 5 and 6 can be seen as a working out of the personal grief and anguish. This is an interpretation more in keeping with the composer's notion of his music as an expression of his deepest feelings. Symphony 7, which shares some thematic material with the slow movement of Symphony 6, is a 25 minute epilogue to this particular "period"of Myaskovsky's writing.
Symphonies 1 - 3 are "youthfully lugubrious" works and 4 - 7 works that take us up to 1925 and lay to rest the demons of national and personal tragedy (Symphony 6 is presented here in the alternative non-choral version so purchase of the very fine Dmitri Liss performance with chorus, coupled with Symphony 10 is recommended Myaskovsky - Symphonies Nos 6 and 10).
Symphony 8 is broadly based on the story of Stenka Razin; Symphony 9 is remarkable for the consonant dischords that make up the first movement; Symphony 10 is a one movement 16 minute work inspired by the illustrations to Pushkin's narrative poem "The Bronze Horseman"; Symphony 11 another "private work" and Symphony 12 is subtitled "Collective Farm". Symphony 13 is another tensely argued one-movement work.
By the 1930's Myaskovsky was writing, broadly speaking, "populist" even-numbered symphonies probably to satisfy the Stalinist regime and "personal" odd numbered ones. The 1931 "Collective Farm" Symphony 12 is based on a sychophantic poem and NOT on the realities of the raging Ukranian famine of the same year. But how much did Myaskovsky actually know, living in a police state with all the media censored? The Symphony 12 is as much an exercise in past, present and future as it is anything else, and so it has an aspirational quality that rises above any narrow propagandist agenda. Similarly, the "Aviation Symphony" (number 16) is inspired by the heroism of Soviet airmen (the Aviators' March written by Myaskovsky for governmental purposes is a testiment to heroic endeavour) in the face of the crash of the huge airliner Maxim Gorky.
After 1933 the element of experimentation takes a back seat and one could say that there is a move towards consolidation of technique and idiom. Probably this was to avoid censure by the Party, though individual journalists attacked some of the works. Myaskovsky's life obviously shows some of the tensions and difficulties of a major - perhaps THE major - composer of the Soviet era in his relationships with the Government. His diaries show that he was appalled by many aspects of the Stalinist regime, and yet during his life he was awarded an unprecedented 6 Stalin prizes for his music! There are some symphonies that are lighter than others (notably number 19) but at his best his art is moving, subtle, noble and inventive. Myaskovsky did not innovate in matters of orchestration and did not move much beyond Scriabin or Rachmaninov - but then again Richard Strauss was another great composer who did wonderful things with the orchestral sounds he inherited.
Symphony 22 is his initial response to the German invasion and 23 is a "lighter" piece based on folk tunes from the area into which he evacuated. Symphonies 24 and 25 may be a good place to start, surprising enough as they are at the very pinnacle of the composer's invention, but Symphony 26 - sometimes known as the "Russian" - shows something of the distress of his final years where the Zhdanov decrees (1948) singled out Russian composers for a new period of brow-beating. Shostakovich and Kahachaturian (to name but two) made the right noises and were sufficiently "repentant" but Myaskovsky's remark that the Zhdanov affair was "...not historical but hysterical" and his holding aloof from the whole thing caused his censure and the withdrawal of much of his music from the Soviet concert hall. The 27 Symphony deals with deeper matters of life and death and moving manages to conclude optimistically.
The Zhdanov affair towards the end of Myaskovsky's life, coupled with the fact that he had no estate or family to oversee performances after his death, led to the sudden neglect of the music that not even his "rehabilitation" seems to have cured. We should remember that it came 10 years after the composer's death and over a decade after a total ban on performances of his works in the Soviet Union - a really damaging period of neglect. Yet here is a truly great symphonist and he is presented by a whole series of remarkably good discs by Svetlanov. Now we can hear how good the music is there seems little excuse not to buy this whilst it is still available.
Finally, the complete Miaskovsky symphonies, all 27 plus numerous extras, all in one box. This must have been a labour of love for Svetlanov, for this was a mammoth undertaking, one only sporadically available on different labels. Now Warner issue the full cycle and now you must buy it, if you are at all passionate about symphonic music.
Miaskovsky could do anything. One minute he offers familiar Russian melancholy, the next we seem to have been teleported to English countryside. He plumbs the depths of depression, before reclining in some Persian palace sipping wine and savouring the jasmine. Russified Wagner, proto-Shostakovich, Sibelian snow flurries, Gallic accents: it's all to be found in this amazing, deeply emotional and tremendously exciting symphonic corpus.
The problem is that Miaskovsky is a dreamer, dreaming of better worlds, so he utilizes whatever comes into his head, regardless of whether or not the sound is reminiscent of other composers. A musical history is created by someone drawing a line linking various composers. Miaskovsky may have been neglected because he wasn't deemed to be dramatically original or influential, but by heavens could be compose glorious music. Such deliciously varied music, here given wholehearted performances.
I seem him now as a Brahms figure for the Twentieth Century. Someone conscious of what had gone before, but whose musical imagination is unmistakably of his own time. If he is still an unknown quantity to you, nows the perfect time to explore this large and affordably priced symphonic continent.
Why four stars? The booklet is really poor, with little more than a track listing.
on 9 January 2009
This is an indispensable purchase for those interested in the Russian or Soviet symphony, but Miaskovsky's vast "terra incognita" is more important as music than a statistic. His decision to stick to a conservative idiom during the musical upheavals of the 20th century makes him different from, not inferior to, say, Shostakovich or Stravinsky. A composer's worth has nothing to do with whether or not he is a stylistic weathervane, blown about by every passing fad. Miaskovsky took what he wanted, and left the rest alone.
In the last three months I have compulsively devoured this set four times. The very fact that the booklet notes are sketchy (one page!) has forced me to assess the music as music, separated from its political environment (although I am familiar with the basics of Soviet political and musical history). No one insists that the ONLY way of appreciating Beethoven is to consider him against a background of footnoted essays on the Napoleonic wars. Likewise, one is in danger of minimizing Soviet music to a mere soundtrack to history--to say nothing of ignoring its significance as a universal human statement--if one is preoccupied with searching for Stalin in every corner!
So what can the newcomer expect? Of the early works, it has been said that the harmony is Scriabinesque--but there is little, if any, of Scriabin's ecstatic flight. I am reminded more of early Zemlinsky and the hyper-charged expressionism of pre-atonal Schoenberg, testing tonality to its limits (No.10 is particularly drastic), as well as the Russian "futurists"--Roslavets, Mossolov, etc.
Later, the emotional tone becomes less angst-laden. Mostly, the music becomes more orthodoxly tonal, lushly "romantic," and even, at times, "bright". Still, Miaskovsky almost always has something important to say. He always retained his gift for steering a slow movement to a climax of exalted lyricism, or (usually) making a triumphant close convincing--and his "futurism" doesn't vanish completely. Also, he never stopped experimenting with the shape of the symphony. Most are in three or four movements, but there are a few in one or two, and even one in five!
Symphonies 18, 19 and 20 acquiesce to populist "Soviet optimism"--one had to placate the authorities in order to survive. However, Miaskovsky recovers his true voice in No.21. No.23 proves he could write a lightweight yet substantial work based on folk tunes, with deliciously novel harmony. The three so-called "Sinfoniettas" are also substantial, fully worthy to be counted among the symphonies, and most of the fillers are important works.
Throughout, there are homages to Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Mussorgsky, Rimsky, etc. Yet, surprisingly, some later scores recall Delius and Elgar (Nos.25 and 27--these are masterpieces!). There are suggestions of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Honegger and other "modernists" (No.14). A great deal of Miaskovsky might not be taken for "Russian music" at all. Some works (No.13 of 1933) even resemble dissonant American academicism of the 30's and 40's! However, no single style dominates. "Modernist" works jostle, cheek by jowl, with lushly romantic ones, in no particular order, and certainly not in predictable alternation. He is a stylistic chameleon, tremendously adept at assimilating influences into his own unique voice.
The booklet notes ARE inadequate (although George Calvin Foreman's dissertation is a great help--more about this below), and the track analysis is full of errors. I have tried to correct as much as I could with the help of Foreman's dissertation, Ikonnikov's "Soviet optimism"-slanted biography, and Groves's:
(Symphony) No.11 is in B-flat minor; in No.8 (on disc 4), the tempo indication for the finale is "Allegro deciso"; No.12 is subtitled "Collective Farm"; the "Symphony-Suite" on disc 10 is No.23; No.16 is subtitled "Aviation Symphony"; the duplicate "No.8" on disc 11 is really No.18; No.2 is in C-sharp minor; No.13 is in B-flat minor; in No.6, Svetlanov omits the optional chorus (Dudarova includes it); No.21 is in F-sharp minor; the "Serenade" on disc 14 is Op.32, No.1, NOT "No.1"; Sinfonietta No.2 is in B minor; the tempo indication for the third movement of Sinfonietta No.3 is "Andante elevato"; the "Hulpigung's Overture" on disc 11 is aka "Salutation Overture" and "Greetings Overture"--WHEW!
The story of Svetlanov funding some of these recordings after the fall of the Soviet Union is well-known. Now and then, there are "wild and wooly" moments (surely due to inevitably insufficient rehearsal time), but the overall standard of the playing is high, and Svetlanov is a tower of strength throughout. It seems unlikely that this set will have any real competition for a long time. Considering the present spotty availability of the Olympia and Alto releases, this is probably, for now, the most reliable way (and surely the least expensive) to acquire all of these CD's.
SCHOLAR'S NOTE! In 1981, George Calvin Foreman submitted his dissertation, "The Symphonies of Nikolai Yakovlivich Miaskovsky" to the University of Kansas. I was able to download it at a university library, although I'm not sure if it's available to the general public. At any rate, it is well over 400 pages, and discusses ALL of the symphonies--Ikonnikov stops at No.24. There are copious musical examples, and Foreman discusses the works in the context of Soviet history. The musical analyses probably get too technical for non-musicians, but there's plenty of other interesting stuff here. Perhaps with the current explosion of interest in this composer, the dissertation will be published! Anyway, it's well worth looking into.
As a parting shot, I doubt that those who dismiss Miaskovsky as "reactionary" would regard him any more favorably if he were a satellite of Shostakovich, Stravinsky or Webern. He is himself--an original--working, by choice and with conviction, in a generally conservative style--eminently worth getting to know on his own terms.
P.S. If you enjoyed the symphonies, don't forget to check out the Taneyev Quartet's recordings of the String Quartets.
on 30 December 2008
This is an important and indispensable issue, but praise requires some qualifications. To start with a warning, a purchaser must first check whether he's got all the right discs in the right sleeves (I, and others, found one disc replaced by a duplicate of another). And everyone's complaint is that the leaflet contains minimal information and several errors. Any listener will want to correlate the symphonies with what was going on at the time in the Soviet cultural world, for which he needs at the very least the dates of composition: these, however, can be easily found on the internet, as can also informative reviews of previous issues of the individual CDs.
How good are these works? They are never as good as Shostakovich at his best, and never as bad as Shostakovich at his worst. Despite superficial influence from Scriabin and other innovators, we rarely get far from the emotional and musical world of nineteenth-century Russian symphonism (the modernist Symphony 13 is the great exception). But this was the fruit not of prudent conformism but of a profound cultural identity, and if the later symphonies were less personal than the earlier ones, this does not mean that they were less sincere. He rarely surprises one, but he had a gift for creating music that is urgent and maintains a sense of direction.
It is interesting to compare Svetlanov's interpretations with those of Gauk, the leading Myaskovsky interpreter of the previous generation. Gauk caught the restraint and nobility in Myaskovsky's personality, while Svetlanov gives us passion and brio instead. As a result he holds one's attention in every single work (a notable achievement!), but it would be a mistake to regard these performances as 'definitive' or uniquely 'authentic'. They need to be supplemented by reissues of the best of the earlier Russian recordings.
on 27 May 2008
I can't repeat this too often: at last all the Symphonies of Nikolay Miaskovsky are available in good to great performances by an eminent Russian conductor: Evgenii Svetlanov. And the extra good news is: some unfamiliar shorter orchestral Works are on these 16! CD's too. Don't expect the Violinconcerto & the Celloconcerto, these aren't included. But they can be had from other (very good sources).
I started collecting CD's form the first day they were available over here (in Holland) and encountered the first Miaskovsky symphonies on the OLYMPIA label and hoped for a complete cycle. Nothing came of it although some of these readings were by Svetlanov. Later the Marco Polo label started recording them and I hoped for a complete cycle. Nothing came of it - and they were done by different conductors and different orchestras so very varied in recording quality and interpretation - but one of these CD's had the tone poem `Silence' op.9 which blew me over (it's on 1 of the 16 so listen to it, it's great). Years later I heard the rumour that Neeme Jarvi was going to record the symphonies for the Swedish BIS label but nothing came of it. A recording on Deutsche Grammophon of Miaskovsky's 6th (with conclusing choir) with the Gothenburg orchestra and Jarvi was released, so I bought that one, it's a good reading.
In 2002 I visited Japan and in Kyoto, at Tower Records of all places, I saw a 16CD box of all these symphonies I think on Svetlanov's own label and I DIDN'T BUY IT. Somehow I didn't trust it, thought it were pirated recordings and I didn't manage enough Japanese those days to ask the 13-year-old boy who was servicing the classical department. (Still don't but that's another story.) The price was wrong too: around (converted) 200 Dutch Guilders (100 Euro's) so that didn't help either.
On Ebay you'll find recordings of these symphonies (paired with 4 CD's in 1 box) on the Russian Disc label but that seller asks a fortune for the whole set too. So I didn't buy it.
Fortunately later in 2002 the OLYMPIA label announced they'd agreed with the Svetlanovs they were going to release all the symphonies in attractive packaging and with liner notes by the eminent Per Skans for the next 2 years and I was delighted and at last started collecting them. Disaster struck! OLYMPIA ceased operation and ¾ through the series (volume 10 I think) stopped production. I thought I'd never live to get a cycle complete.
I who was visiting every Svetlanov concert he gave over here in my own home town (he was chief conductor for 5 years of the Residentie Orchestra, The Hague.) was denied the pleasure of collecting these works. Delighted I was hearing that the Alto-label had bought the OLYMPIA rights for the Miaskovsky symphonies so there we went: collecting the rest of the series. And now, 4 CD's short of the completion of the OLYMPIA/Alto set: this 16CD box. I immediately ordered it! I suggest you do before it's too late! Grab as long as you can!!!!
Recording nor orchestral playing is perfect but the rawness of things is something Miaskovsky can handle, and Svetlanov's orchestra can too. Go for it and thank you Svetlanov, I'll remember you as long as I live.
on 15 September 2008
In 30 years of listening I had only heard just four of Miaskovsky's 27 symphonies. To explore them all has been a wonderful voyage of discovery. They are far more various and original than the usual critical summaries would suggest, with the 'middle period' works from the late 20s and early 30s as 'modern' as anything that, say, Copland, Honegger or Walton were writing at that time. And then the later works have a marvellous autumnal glow, suffused with melancholy.
Svetlanov's performances present each work with great vigour and character. The recording quality is a bit congested, but has been mastered to give reasonable consistency for performances that must have been spread over 15 years or more of studio sessions. And of course it's enthralling to hear these works performed by the kind of orchestra they were written for.
A very considerable bonus is the generous selection of additional orchestra works, including some true masterpieces.
But the set misses out on five stars for a number of reasons. The notes are dreadful. They don't even give dates of composition or recording. Symphony No 18 has been misnumbered as a duplicate No 8 (the opus numbers keep you right) and nothing explains that Symphony No 23 appears under the title 'symphony-suite'.
Worst of all, in working my way through the symphonies numerically, I discovered that the sleeve for disc 14 contained a duplicate disc 9, with only a few days to go before the time limit for returning the set had passed. So check the set carefully when you get it!
on 7 October 2014
This set is a fantastic bargain. Over the years, I have gathered a fairly large collection of classical cds of all genres and until recently had just one by Myaskovsky. I have played most of the cds in this box and never thought that there was a hidden treasure trove of themes and melodies which I was totally unaware of. They are stirring, melodious and pleasant to the ear. A real bargain. Yes, the notes are scant but this is outweighed by the pleasure I am now receiving in my discovering more of the music of this formerly unknown composer. Most cds are 70+ minutes; If you love music you will not be disappointed.
on 3 January 2016
Here we have 27 symphonies, 3 sinfoniettas, 2 symphonic poems, 2 overtures, and a few other miscellaneous orchestral pieces by the 20th century Russian composer, Nikolai Miaskovsky. Despite the composer's significant position in Soviet music (teacher of Kabalevsky and Khachaturian and an influence on Schnittke through Golubev - if you don't believe me try listening to Schnittke's Symphony No. 0), most of the music present will undoubtedly be unfamilar to the vast majority of listeners. As befits a composer with a reputation for quality even if writing in a conservative idiom (The 'Musical Conscience of Moscow'), you will find as you begin to listen that few of the works give up their riches on only one hearing. They need to be lived with a bit. If we consider that alongside the fact that there are 16 very full (all discs over 70 mins) discs here and the programme notes are limited at best, getting to grips with this music will be a rather daunting task. First question: Is it worth bothering at all? Second question: Where should you start?
My answer to the first question is a resounding 'yes'. I think the music here falls into about three broad categories: 1) works that are really very good and deserve to be played internationally alongside the major symphonies of the 20th century, such as those of Shostakovich and Prokofiev. In my opinion, these are Symphonies 5, 6, 7, 10, 13, 21, 25 and 27. 2) works that are well worth hearing, but don't quite make it into the first group for whatever reason. The vast majority of the music on these discs falls into this group. Those who are interested in Russian or Soviet music of the period will find the music interesting, but never quite on the same level as the better known composers. 3) the odd work that probably deserves to be quietly forgotten. There aren't many pieces in this group, but there are some.
I would recommend anyone new to this music to start by listening to the pieces in the first group. Symphony No. 5 is a large work, on the surface optimistic, but with darker undercurrents, reminiscent of Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 3. Thats not to say it is written in the same style, as clearly the music seeks to assert itself in its own, very Russian idiom, and is given a convincing and grandiose performance by Svetlanov. Symphony No. 6 is a masterpiece. Svetlanov gives us a very effective performance. If you can cope with the fact that this is the version WITHOUT the choir, then this is probably the best performance of this work available. We have breathless aggression, tragedy and anger in the first movement, then the haunting sense of lost innocence peculiar to Miaskovsky (in my view what he does best and what gives him his own unique character as a composer), and then the complex, at times ambivalent, but ultimately tragic Finale. Some critics have taken issue with the banality of the French revolutionary songs, but it seems to me that the whole point of these songs is to contrast their banality with the Russian Orthodox hymn about the departure of the soul. Ostensibly 'The Revolutionary' perhaps rather this Symphony No. 6 is about the loss of Russia's soul, and reflects Miaskovsky's private relationship to what has happen through the revolution and the Civil War (it seems difficult to believe Miaskovsky approved of what was going on, after various family members had been murdered, including his father who was a Tsarist General). It is the kind of complex statement that Shostakovich was adept at making in works such as his Symphonies 5 and 10. Miaskovsky's Symphony No. 7 is perhaps still darker, opening with a magical atmosphere reminiscent of Bax's early symphonies. It is, however, on repeated hearings more satisfying than most of Bax's symphonies. It is much shorter than Symphony No. 6 and its rather abrupt and violent ending seems to be a sign of things to come in symphonies 10 and 13. Symphony No. 10 is a very violent and aggressive work. It has the tumultuous feel of a piece by Pettersson or Vermeulen, although still with that more Romantic sense of lost innocence. It is tautly constructed, well argued and powerful, over in 16 minutes. Symphony No. 13 is the most modernist of all Miaskovsky's pieces, feeling at times as though it could have been written by Stravinsky, with a beautiful ending similar in feel to that of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4. It is also, perhaps the most tragic work of the whole oeuvre, anger now suppressed and giving way to despair. It is difficult to know what lies behind this complex and enigmatic work, but tempting, given the time of its composition to set it alongside the Symphony No. 4 of Shostakovich, Symphony No. 1 of G. Popov and Symphony No. 2 of Lyatoshinsky. It is less aggressive than any of those, however, and much shorter (20 mins), perhaps reflecting the relative maturity of the composer by this stage (he had already turned 50).
If someone produced a disc of Miaskovsky' s 7th, 10th and 13th Symphonies, I defy anyone who listened to it blind to claim that Miaskovsky was a conservative composer. However, by the later symphonies, Miaskovsky's idiom, is, however far simpler and more direct. Symphonies 21 and 25 feel rather Sibelian, and Symphony No. 25 at times Brucknerian. Both are deeply tragic and beautiful pieces. Symphony No. 27 is far more 'classical'. At times it feels like it could have been written by Elgar. Although the idiom is extremely conservative for its time the psychology of this work about life and death runs deep, and is more and more satisfying the more you listen to it. All three pieces reflect the haunting tragedy of the earlier pieces with greater simplicity and without the aggression. In some ways this makes them even more compelling. Svetlanov presents powerful performances of all three, although the recording of Symphony 27 lacks focus.
Of the rest: The first three symphonies, and the two symphonic poems, Silence and Alastor, were written before 1914, and are all serious and strong pieces that will appeal to those who enjoy the Russian symphonism of the period. If you like Rachmaninov's symphonies and 'The Isle of the Dead' then you might want to explore these pieces. 'Silence' is in particular similar in its atmosphere to the "Isle of the Dead' although its elaborate counterpoint reminds me of Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande also. The melodies are never as memorable as those of Rachmaninov and at this stage Miaskovsky has not yet developed an individual voice of his own. The best piece of these is the Symphony No. 3, with a closing section that feels like an inexorable march towards tragedy. Unfortunately, the recordings of these pieces lack clarity. The early Op. 10 Sinfonietta is much lighter and uninteresting.
Miaskovsky begins to develop his own style in the tragic and at times anguished Symphony No. 4, which although convincing in its own right, feels a bit like a run through for Symphony No. 6. It is rather spoilt by a somewhat bombastic ending, but there will be much of interest here if you respond to Symphonies 5, 6 and 7. Symphony No. 8 is a curiously unconvincing work, conceived on a large scale, yet rather too expansive for its material. Although Symphony No. 9 is more convincing than Symphony No. 8, it feels a bit too much like a poor relation to Symphony No. 6. It has the same aggressive breathless feel, but with a rather banale Presto movement and lacks the same intensity. Symphony No. 11 is a good piece that reflects the experience of Symphony No. 10. It is also aggressive and at times rather 'modernist', but not as tautly constructed and not quite as memorable. Symphony No. 12 is sometimes beautiful but it is a propaganda piece about collective farms. Fine though it is in its own way, as an early example of a Stalinist propaganda Symphony (like G. Popov Symphony 2), it will be limited in its appeal. Symphony No. 14 is a particularly fine work. Although on the surface a lighter piece incorporating folk material, on repeated hearings it seems to reflect the tragic and troubled content of Symphony No. 13 through a 'popular' prism rather in the manner of Shostakovich Symphony No. 9. Symphony No. 15 is great if you like 19th century Russian symphonism: its material is memorable, but it could easily have been written 50-60 years earlier. Symphonies 11-15 were written consecutively and feel to me like five gear changes in a progressive artistic crisis. We go from the rather abrupt and sometimes aggressive Symphony No. 11 to the overtly propagandistic Symphony No. 12 to the despairing and tragic overtly modernist Symphony No. 13, to a reappropriation of those same emotions through folk music in Symphony No. 14 to a return to the ultra conservative idiom of Symphony No. 15. The Serenade, Sinfonietta and Concertino lirico of Op. 32 from this period are largely uninteresting although the Concertino lirico is probably the best if you would like to hear something light and relaxing.
Symphony No. 16 was inspired by an air disaster and its powerful funereal slow movement will appeal to many. This work ultimately feels rather cinematic and the comparison that springs to mind is with Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 7. Symphony No. 17 is well worth encountering, a large scale Romantic work with a style transitional between the earlier and later symphonies. It is, however, rather let down by its Finale, which doesn't quite tie the previously presented material together (I call this the Bruckner 6 problem). Symphony 18 is a slight work with rather uninteresting first and 3rd movements and an appealing 2nd slow movement. Symphony No. 19 is a light work for military wind band. It is not a descent into uninteresting triviality, but at the same time it is nowhere near as interesting as the lighter, melodious works of his friend Prokofiev. Hulpigung's Overture, written at roughly the same time, feels like one of Elgar's more public works, to some extent attractive, but not really all that interesting. Symphony No. 20 has a beautiful slow movement. Symphony-ballad No. 22, inspired by the war, to me seems unconvincing; the attempt at a public work in a large scale Romantic style is an uncomfortable hybrid. Symphony-Suite No. 23 on Circassian folk tunes is the finest of Miaskovsky's lighter works with a beautiful atmosphere and memorable tunes. If you like the Suites of Khachaturian (Miaskovsky's pupil), you will love this. The Slav Rhapsody is far less convincing. Given the competition from other Russian composers writing in this kind of style, however, this piece doesn't quite make it into the first group for me at least. Symphony No. 24 is a fine and beautiful work that on repeated hearings is not quite as structurally convincing as Symphony No. 25. Symphony No. 26 again uses folk tunes and has a rather bombastic ending, although it is also deeply tragic. In this piece it is as though the public and private personae of Miaskovsky are doing battle. For that reason, it is certainly interesting, but probably more to those who have a specific interest in Soviet music of the period than the general listener.
The late Tragic Overture, Op. 68 Sinfonietta, Divertissement and Links are all worth hearing, athough perhaps not the composer at his very best.
All in all, Svetlanov's achievement is immense, and his comprehensive survey of this major Soviet composer at last gives the listener the opportunity to get a detailed picture of his music. Recently, there have been signs that conductors outside Russia have started taking an interest in the better pieces. Long may this continue. For the listener, this set presents great value for money, with 16 very full discs and plenty of music that will take a long time to get through. (I am writing this review about 3 years after I purchased the set).
on 1 November 2015
Some many symphonies and who is the composer as I never heard of Him or Her and as there is some many cd at give away price as if buying one and get 19. I listen to some symphonies and bong as the he voice came and said your life is short and do you need to waste your life by wasting your life listenento to these symphonies and why do you listen to tchai symphony 6 as you will be nearer to Nivana if you drink the water or live with n pudding lane,well I bought it anyway and if long way to kick off he bucket then buy it as the star say you will longer than one minutes waltz last how long and James pass the water as I can not afford cheap cooking sherry.
on 7 June 2015
Nothing wrong with these recordings, performances or value for money. It's just I find Miaskovsky's music
very hard to listen to. It must be me, judging by all the rave reviews. I shall persevere, but I really struggle
to get to grips with the composers structural composition. A lot of his works were written at the same time
as Shostakovich, and whilst not making direct comparisons, side by side the two together are like chalk & cheese.
Good luck to those purchasing this set, especially if Miaskovsky's music is new to you.