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MYASKOVSKY: Symphonies Nos. 24 and 25

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Nikolay Yakovlevich Myaskovsky (1881-1950)Symphony No. 24 in F minor, Op. 63Symphony No. 25 in D flat major, Op. 69Remarkably many Russian composers of older times began theirprofessional lives as military men. In some cases this has left us withanecdotes, like the one about Rimsky-Korsakov falling into the Baltic from theclipper Almaz. In other cases the accounts are serious, even tragic. As alieutenant in the sappers, Nikolay Myaskovsky suffered severe shell-shock afterhaving been badly wounded in some of the fiercest fighting on the Eastern frontduring the First World War. He was sent home, but the war left its traces forthe remainder of his life.            Myaskovskywas in fact born in 1881 in a fortress, Novo-Georgiyevsk near Warsaw, where hisfather served as an officer. He joined a cadet school, and he was already alieutenant when he began his studies at the St Petersburg Conservatory at theage of 25. His main teachers were Anatoly Liadov and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov,which guaranteed him the most solid composition technique imaginable. One ofhis fellow students was Prokofiev, ten years his junior, and theircompositional debuts took place at the same concert; they were very goodfriends, and Myaskovsky even invented numerous titles for Prokofiev's works.Myaskovsky graduated in 1911, but in the middle of a promising musical careerhe had to join the army again at the outbreak of the First World War. Afterrecovering from the aforementioned shell-shock he soon moved to Moscow where hewas to spend the rest of his life. In 1921 he became a Professor of Compositionat the Moscow Conservatory.            Myaskovsky'smusical style was never ultra-modern, but may rather be placed somewherebetween the great Russian Romantics and that of his fellow student Prokofiev.It is therefore particularly absurd that he was among the composers who wereseverely criticized by the Soviet Communist Party in 1948. The official decreeused many vague terms, but it was obvious that the Central Committee wantedcomposers to write music that Donbass coal-miners and Uzbek farmers couldeasily understand, not only the Moscow, Leningrad or Kiev concert audiences.This unjust criticism probably precipitated Myaskovsky's death in 1950, denyinghim the joy of reaching the round number of thirty symphonies - but with 27 hestill stands out as one of the truly great symphonists of the last century, andhe was also very prolific in most other musical areas, opera and ballet beingthe main exceptions.            Likemost Soviet composers, Myaskovsky was evacuated during the Second World War,and thus it was in the Kirgiz capital Frunze that the news of the death ofVladimir Derzhanovsky reached him in September 1942. This was a severe blow,because he had not only been working closely together with this eminentmusicologist and publisher of the periodical Muzyka for many years (for examplecontributing articles to the journal), but they had also become close friends,and it was thus natural for him to dedicate his Symphony No. 24 in F minor, Op.63, to Derzhanovsky's memory. In December he was allowed to return to Moscow,and in March 1943 he began sketching the symphony. After a few days the news ofRachmaninov's death reached him, which also may have influenced his mood duringthe following months. On 24th August he noted in his diary that he hadcompleted the orchestration, and the score was handed over to YevgenyMravinsky, who conducted the premi?¿re in the Great Hall of the MoscowConservatory on 8th December.            Thosewho because of the circumstances surrounding the composition of the symphonyexpect it to be some kind of dirge will be disappointed: it is, in fact, astrongly dramatic work. The first and last of the three movements, both of themwritten in sonata form, even begin with fanfares played by the brass. TheRussian musicologist Zoya Gulinskaya has called the first of them, Allegrodeciso, an \heroic ballad", and already its first bar displays a defiant moodwhich is softened but still present in the broad secondary theme. Only afterthe development, towards the end of the movement, does the atmosphere softenand show some signs of resignation. As if the drama had already been exhaustedin the first movement, the slow Molto sostenuto appears comparativelyrestrained; its feeling of grief is created by presenting its tragic theme invarying orchestrations and dynamics, and in the last bars an unexpected turninto the major mode brings a sudden shaft of light. The finale, Allegroappassionato, is based on a modification of the secondary theme from the firstmovement, from which a number of climaxes are built up, but their intensitygradually diminishes, until the symphony finally ends in the calm of a serene Fmajor.            TheSymphony No. 25 in D flat major, Op. 69, is Myaskovsky's first large post-warorchestral work. He did not begin composing it until a year after thearmistice, the reason being that his health had deteriorated severely and thathe had in the meantime spent some time at a health resort. The initial sketcheswere written in the summer of 1946, and on 6th March, 1947, Alexander Gaukconducted the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR at the first performance,which took place with considerable success in the Great Hall of the MoscowConservatory. The dedicatee of the work was Levon Atovmian, a fellow composerof Armenian descent, who was later to have disastrous problems with the regimeand was saved only by Shostakovich's intervention. In 1949 Myaskovsky undertookminor revisions to the work.            In1946 the general climate for Soviet composers was comparatively good. Duringthe war they had been allowed a fair amount of artistic liberty, and the Partyhad not yet fully resumed its pre-war efforts to control the arts. It is,however, not very likely that Myaskovsky would have composed the symphonydifferently after the year of conflict 1948: as it is, it does not differ muchfrom the standards accepted by the leadership.              Thegreatest difference, as compared with most other symphonies, is that this workbegins with a slow movement, Adagio. Instead of the sonata form traditionallyused for the first movement of a symphony, this work begins with a set ofvariations on a typically Russian theme, which Soviet commentators regarded asan epic portrayal of the Fatherland. The second movement, Moderato, is alsorather lyrical, though not quite as slow, and its comparatively light-heartedspirit is characterized by the sudden appearance of a waltz theme. All thedrama of this three-movement work is concentrated in the finale, Allegroimpetuoso, which introduces a sudden and vigorous forward drive towards theimpressive conclusion, crowned by the reappearance of the theme from the firstmovement.Per Skans
Item number 8555376
Barcode 747313537624
Release date 04/01/2003
Category Symphony
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Myaskovsky, Nikolay
Myaskovsky, Nikolay
Conductors Yablonsky, Dmitry
Yablonsky, Dmitry
Orchestras Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Producers Doronina, Lubov
Doronina, Lubov
Disc: 1
Symphony No. 25 in D flat major, Op. 69
1 I. Allegro deciso
2 II. Molto sostenuto
3 III. Allegro appassionato
4 I. Adagio
5 II. Moderato
6 III. Allegro impetuoso
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