Taking the ten volumes of
the now deleted Olympia series (see reviews: 1-5
with the Alto label’s continuation of that series (see
) it will take only one further disc to have
all the Myaskovsky symphonies available on individual CDs.
The present disc is No. 13 in the series.
This disc includes one of
Myaskovsky's longest symphonies alongside the Third and
Sixth. It shares a disc with an exuberant singing overture
and the most recorded Myaskovsky work - the Symphony 21.
Recorded by Ormandy
Morton Gould (now on the Bearac label) in the USA and by
various Russian conductors. Svetlanov's is the most recent.
The Salutatory Overture
seemingly known as the Hulpigung’s Overture
so much better than its title and circumstances - the 60th
birthday of Stalin - might suggest. It encapsulates much
of the Myaskovsky manner: the tragic grandeur and the singing
dignified melancholy. It is not the brash pot-boiler that
we might have expected from Shostakovich's Festive Overture
the various examples by Kabalevsky. It is heroic and carries
a sense of striving. Surprisingly its assertive lyricism
has a distinct Rawsthorne flavour about it. There’s even
an episode that recalls Hanson's Second Symphony.
The Seventeenth Symphony
an epic piece although the epic side softens into smiling
kindness in the finale. The brass throughout are idiomatically
Russian with that glowing part warble - part bloom (I,
5:00). The heroic aspects material is acutely judged and
has a leisurely majesty – listen to those agonising and
agonised trumpets at 4:20 in I and the superhuman striving
of the massed brass at 12:03 and 14:50 – all in the first
movement. The long Lento
is intensely romantic to
the danger point of sentimentality - it's a sensationally
affecting and delicate piece of writing, complete with
jewelled harp highlights. In this movement Myaskovsky is
as close as he ever came to the second movement of Rachmaninov's
Second Symphony. I recall this movement being used (Gauk
recording now on Classound if you can find it) to illustrate
Robert Layton’s Myaskovsky profile on Radio 3 in the early
1970s. The short allegro
third movement uses the
sort of chevauchée
charge motif that we know from
the symphonies 21, 24 and 25. However Myaskovsky astonishes
with some writing of a delicacy very close to Ravel but
with a folksy accent. The finale features a typically emotional
and writing which enchants
through its expression of attentive kindness rather than
grandstanding drama. The easygoing and lissom confidence
of this movement also recalls Vaughan Williams in his sunny
ambling mood. Myaskovsky in this work might be seen as
the successor to Tchaikovsky - his writing is that
The wartime Twenty-First
is also superbly done and is here allocated
a single track. Svetlanov's command of atmosphere is
immediate. I had forgotten how the introduction before
the ‘cavalry charge’ figure (5:27)) was so close to the
expressionist angst of symphonies 7 and 13. After a moments
of skirling power (5:45) and tramping fugal character
(9:24) the music rises to a peak of tortured triumph.
The work settles into a Sibelian shimmer at the close
with some plangent bass-emphasised pizzicato writing.
The Seventeenth was issued
previously on Melodiya (SUCD 10-00472) shortly after the
recording was made.
It's sad to note the death of Per
Skans for whom Tommy Persson provides
an obituary in the booklet. Skans
wrote the annotations for the Olympia
volumes and all the Altos up until
now. His mantle is now assumed by
the capable and extremely well-informed
Jeffrey Davis who furnishes the note
for these two symphonies. Skans' notes
have been a distinctive strength of
the Olympia and Alto project but Jeffrey
Davis seems in every way a worthy
All the Svetlanov Myaskovsky
symphonies are now available in a Warner box but the documentation
for that bargain basement box is scant to put it mildly.
If you want your Myaskovsky meticulously documented then
the Olympia-Alto series is the one to go for.
Wonderful playing of music
that has been locked away for far too long.