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8.223301 - MYASKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6
Nikolay Yakovlevich Miaskovsky (1881-1950)
Symphony No. 6 in E Flat Minor (Revolutionary), Op. 23
Nikolay Yakovlevich Miaskovsky has long enjoyed an ambiguous reputation, much honoured at home in the Soviet Union, and respected abroad, if relatively little known, except for the fact that he wrote 27 symphonies. Born in 1881, he belonged to the generation that had its musical training at the turn of the century, under the successors of Rubinstein and of the Five, and its active career under the new régime established in Russia after 1917.
Miaskovsky was born in 1881 in Novogeorgiyevsk, near Warsaw, the son of an engineer officer. His early education followed family tradition at military schools at Nizhny-Novgorod and in St. Petersburg, and finally at the Academy of Military Engineering, where he completed his studies in 1902. From childhood he had shown an interest in music, fostered at first by his mother and after her death in 1890 by his aunt, his father's sister, who had been a singer at the opera in St. Petersburg. He played the violin in the military cadets' orchestra and was decisively influenced by a concert conducted by Nikisch in 1896, deciding even then that music should be his career. In 1902, as a young officer in Moscow, he took private lessons, not from Taneyev, as Rimsky-Korsakov had recommended, but from Glière, who had recently completed his studies and had been ernployed by the Prokofiev family to give lessons to their son during summer holidays. On Glière's suggestion he later studied with Krizhanovsky in St. Petersburg as apreparation for entry in 1906 to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where his teachers included Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1908 he wrote his first symphony, which won him a much needed share in the Glazunov scholarship.
Miaskovsky's fellow-students at the Conservatory included the young Prokofiev, ten years his junior, with whom he established a lasting friendship, united at first in their critical attitude to Lyadov and his teaching and in their playing of four-hand piano arrangements of a varied repertoire of music. The composers maintained their relationship until Miaskovsky's death in 1950, with the older man an indulgent mentor, offering advice tempered with admiration, both acceptable in equal measure to Prokofiev.
After graduation in 1911 Miaskovsky supported himself by teaching music in one of the less important music schools in St. Petersburg and during the war he served on the Austrian front as an officer in the Pioneers and was wounded while ernployed on the naval fortifications at Reval (Talinn), after which he held a staff appointment in Moscow. In 1917 he joined the Red Army and after demobilisation in 1921 joined the teaching staff of the Moscow Conservatory, remaining a professor of composition there until his death. In this capacity he exercised an important influence over a younger generation of composers, induding Khachaturian and Kabalevsky. In character he rernained retiring and diffident, perhaps affected by the shell-shock he had suffered in the war, and rejected atternpts by Prokofiev to induce him to travel to Western Europe. As his career progressed he increasingly attempted to fulfil w hat he saw as the requirements of the Soviet establishment, although initially without any particular political affiliation. In the 1930s he abandoned the Association for Contemporary Music, of which he had been a founder-member, to adopt a style that was often of more immediate appeal to the people. Nevertheless in 1948 his name was linked with those of Shostakovich, Prokofiev and his own former pupils Kabalevsky and Shebalin, in Zhdanov's condemnation of formalistic distortions and anti-democratic tendencies. Ten years later he was posthumously rehabilitated.
In his autobiography Miaskovsky dedared that his first symphonies, written between 1908 and 1918, were pessimistic in tendency. The Fifth Symphony, written in 1918, marked a more positive attitude and was followed by the Sixth Symphony, Opus 23, written between 1921 and 1923 and first performed the following year in Moscow. This work represents a reaction to the revolutionary period in Russia and was later described by the composer as a reflection of a weak-willed, neurotic and sacrificial attitude. The symphony is scored for a large orchestra and chorus, an example of a monumental form of composition that has had an important place in music favoured by the Soviet authorities.
The first movement opens with abrief and emphatic introduction leading almost at once to the strongly marked first theme of a sonata-form movement. This is answered by a second subject of intensely emotive outline, announced by the French horn, to appear in the recapitulation played by the trumpet. The movement closes in a mood of sadness, after abrief shaft of light.
The second movement, marked Presto tenebroso, opens with the development of a motif already introduced, played by the bassoon against a repeated note from cellos and double basses, its busy and ominous progress interrupted by a tranquil flute solo, recalling a similar episode in the first movement, and later, after the resumption of the original mood, by a similar relaxation of tension with muted strings. There follows a deeply felt slow movement, its first material recalling the first movement, but proceeding to a clarinet theme of very Russian contour. A cheerful outburst from the French horns introduces the last movement which uses two songs from the French revolution, La carmagnole and Ah ça ira. The Dies irae of the Latin Requiem Mass is heard and a traditional Russian chant on the parting of body and soul, the former to be buried in the damp ground and the second ascending to heaven, a final telling note of optimism, as the suffering hero survives the years of struggle to reach his ultimate reward.
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929. The orchestra's first conductor was František Dyk and over the past sixty years it has worked under the direction of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. The orchestra has made many recordings for the Naxos label ranging from the ballet music of Tchaikovsky to more modern works by composers such as Copland, Britten and Prokofiev. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Glière, Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss, Ibert and Khachaturian.
Robert Stankovsky was born in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in 1964, and after a childhood spent in the study of the piano, recorder, oboe and clarinet, turned his attention, at the age of fourteen, to conducting, graduating in this and in piano at the Bratislava Conservatory with the title of best graduate of the year. Stankovsky is regarded as one of the best conductors of the younger generation in Czechoslovakia. For Marco Polo Stankovsky has recorded symphonies by Rubinstein and Miaskovsky in addition to orchestral works by Dvorák and Smetana.
Text of Fourth Movement
(Latin text by V.J. Sokolov)
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