About this Recording
8.223302 - MYASKOVSKY: Silence Op. 9 / Symphony No. 12

Nikolai Yakovlevich Miaskovsky (1881- 1950)

Nikolai Yakovlevich Miaskovsky (1881-1950)

Symphony No.12 in G Minor (Kolkhoz - Collective Farm), Op. 35

Silence, Op. 9 (Symphonic poem after Poe)


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 declared 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, a work that represents his own reactions 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 Twelfth Symphony was completed in 1932 and was designed to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution. The work is allegedly based on The Proletarians by the popular Soviet poet Viktor Gusev. Miaskovsky originally provided a programme for the symphony, in which he attempted to illuslrate the changes in a Russian village, reflecting life before the Communisl reforms, during the changes and after. The symphony has been generally known as the "Collective Farm" symphony. The composer later expressed reservations about the success of the last of the three movements.


The symphony opens with a theme of clear Russian outline, played by a solo clarinet, followed by a cor anglais, accompanied by muted violins. In a passage marked Adagio severo, the bassoon, with solo cello and double bass, introduces another theme, which provides material for what follows, before the appearance of a more cheerful melody, marked Allegro giocoso, and at first entrusted to the flute. The thematic material returns in reverse order, concluding in the mood of the opening, the cor anglais now followed by the clarinet.


The second movement, marked Presto agitato, is announced by the trumpets, followed by the slrings, as the key shifts. A theme of fugal possibilities is introduced by the bassoon and double bass. The music grows quieter, introducing a brief passage marked Invocando, followed by a cor anglais motif that forms the basis, with the original malerial, of accompaniment to a folk-type melody, played by the flute. The music grows in intensity , leading to another passage marked Invocando, and an Allegro agitato in the mood of the opening, broken off again before the recapitulation proper. The last movement is not one of unalloyed triumph, except in its final bars. New material of thoroughly Russian contour is introduced, with reminiscences of the earlier movements, memories of the unreformed village and the years of struggle. The year 1932, after all, marked the end of the first Five-Year Plan, during which collectivisalion had ultimately had to undergo some modification, after much hardship for the peasants involved in the ambitious agrarian reform.


Miaskovsky wrote his First Symphony in 1908, while still a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The following year he wrote the symphonic poem Silence, based on the poem The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. First performed in 1911 in Moscow, the work was followed by a second symphonic poem, this time based on Shelley's Alastor. In Poe's famous work the poet sits in his study on a bleak December night, remembering his lost beloved Lenore. There is a tapping at the window, and a black raven steps in, with its oneword, an ominous message, ¡§Nevermore¡§, the only answer to the despairing cries of the poet. Nevermore shall he see Lenore and nevermore shall the shadow of the bird of ill-omen cease to fall on him, depriving him of all hope.


Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)


The 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 NAXOS 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, Rubinstein and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss, Ibert and Khatchaturian.


Robert Stankovsky


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. In spite of his youth Stankovsky has had considerable experience as a conductor with the major orchestras of Slovakia, including the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, the Capella Istropolitana, the Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra, as weil as the Central Bohemian Symphony Orchestra, the Košice State Philharmonic Orchestra and others. He has conducted in East and West Germany, in Hungary, Russia, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and in the United States of America and is at the moment conductor of the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bratislava, and of the Košice State Philharmonic Orchestra. He has made recordings with the Ukrainian Radio Orchestra in Kiev and since November, 1988,  has been permanent guest conductor of the Leipzig Radio Orchestra. 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.


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