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ClassicsOnline Home » MYASKOVSKY: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 10
Nikolai Miaskovsky (1881-1950)
Symphony No. 7 in B Minor, Op. 34
Symphony No. 10 in F Minor, Op. 30
Nikolai Miaskovsky was born in
Novogeorgievsky, on April 20, 1881. The son of a Russian army engineer, he
moved with his family to Kazan in 1889 where his mother gave him his first
music lessons. The composer described this period in his article
“Autobiographical Notes on My Creative Development”, published in Soviet
Music in 1936:
"By now music was already a driving
force. The decisive moment arrived when I heard a pianoforte duet... that
stirred me profoundly... then began my pleadings for a musical education. We
finally hired a piano and Auntie began to teach me..."
With the death of his mother, this aunt,
who had been a soprano with the St. Petersburg Opera, continued the lessons,
but her nervous disposition, according to Miaskovsky's biographer, Ikonnikov,
"led to an unhealthy reticence in him."
Miaskovsky's first compositions consisted
of piano preludes. Despite his musical gifts, he was expected to pursue a
military career. His father, now a general, sent him to the cadet school at
Nizhy-Novgorod in 1893 and to a military school in St. Petersburg in 1895. He
studied piano, violin and harmony and joined the cadet orchestra. Nikisch
conducted in St. Petersburg the following year, so impressing Miaskovsky that
he was determined to pursue a musical career. His father insisted that he
conclude his military studies, however. He graduated from the Academy of
Military Engineering in 1902.
At Taneyev's recommendation, Miaskovsky
took a six-month course in harmony from Glière in 1903, studied theory for
three years with Kryzhanovsky and entered St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1906.
Studying with Liadov and Rimsky-Korsakov, he composed for piano, voice and
orchestra. Destined to become the most prolific Russian composer, with his 27
symphonies, he wrote his First in 1908. On the merit of his work, he was
granted a Glazunov scholarship which enabled him to complete his musical
education. In 1911 he graduated from the Conservatory and completed his Second
Symphony which was given its first performance on July 24, 1912. Subsequently,
he wrote two piano sonatas and his Third Symphony, which was introduced
on February 27, 1915.
During the First World War, Miaskovsky
was at the front with the Russian army for three years. Wounded and
shell-shocked, he left the front in 1917 to work on fortifications. In 1921 he
was appointed composition professor at the Moscow Conservatory and he held this
position for life. During the twenty years of his professorship, Miaskovsky
taught over forty composers, among them Khachaturian, Kabalevsky and
Alexandrov. From 1921 and 1922 he was assistant director of the music
department of the People's Commissariat, being editor of the Music Publishing
House from 1922 to 1931. On the editorial staff of Soviet Music, he held an
imposing position in the Union of Soviet Composers.
Victor Belyayev sees in Miaskovsky's
music influences from Glazunov regarding symphonic structure, and Scriabin
concerning harmony, but maintains that such derivations are of a general
nature, and that Miaskovsky's work reveals a strongly original creative
The title Artist of Merit was bestowed in
conjunction with the sixtieth anniversary of the Moscow Conservatory in 1926.
The Fifth and Sixth Symphonies brought Miaskovsky international
recognition. Nicolas Slonimsky has divided the composer's symphonic output into
four distinct periods:
"The first period from the First to
the Sixth is typical of his pre-revolutionary moods: introspective and at the
same time mystical…
His second symphonic period, from the Seventh
to the Twelfth Symphony, symbolizes a path from the 'subjective' to the
'objective', from the individual to the collective…
The third period, from the Thirteenth
to the Eighteenth Symphony, represents a synthesis of subjective moods
and objective realistic ideas...
The Nineteenth Symphony is the
beginning of a new phase, almost utilitarian in character. Miaskovsky's
symphonic writing here becomes more compact..."
effective composer of chamber music, Miaskovsky wrote thirteen string quartets.
The advent of the Second World War did not stifle his creativity, as his words
"I worked intensively in those days,
even in bomb shelters. After completing three songs and two military marches, I
conceived the idea of a symphonic ballad. It was finished in October, during
the stern days of the Hitlerite offensive against Moscow... Late Autumn found
me in Kabardino-Balkaria, a small Caucasian republic whose people have a wealth
of wonderful songs and dances. Here, in the town of Nalchik, I wrote another
symphony, my Twenty-third, whose theme was inspired by Kabardino-Balkarian
national music. Then I completed a string quartet in three movements, dedicated
to the memory of those who perished for my country. It reflects one thought:
the blood which has been spilled has not been in vain."
Miaskovsky's Symphony No. 23 was
premiered on July 20, 1942, the 'Symphonic Ballad' he refers to as Symphony
No. 22, which was introduced in Tiflis on January 12, 1942. He also composed
two concerti: for cello and violin. L. Raaben, in his work The Soviet
Instrumental Concerto, writes that Miaskovsky's approach to the Concerto was
that of a symphonist. This symphonic scope and grandeur is apparent in both
works. The Cello Concerto was completed in 1944, first performed on
March 17, 1945 and received the Stalin Prize.
A consistent worker, Miaskovsky remained
true to his ideals despite the February, 1948 denunciation by the Central
Committee of the Communist Party, which issued a widespread censure of
prominent Soviet composers. Miaskovsky's views on music have been well
"The first thing I demand from music
in general is directness of appeal, power, and nobility of expression; music
that does not satisfy these three requirements does not exist for me, or if it
does exist, then it does so solely for utilitarian purposes. I always consider
a piece of music from three points of view: its content, its inner and outer form...
Of the three elements enumerated, I consider the first two to be absolutely
essential. I admire good outer form, but I can make allowances for
imperfections in it provided the first two elements are beyond reproach."
Miaskovsky died in Moscow on August 9,
1950, the Soviet Council of Ministers describing him as "this outstanding
Soviet musical worker and people's artist."
With his Sixth Symphony still
unfinished, Miaskovsky began to work on his Seventh, completing it in 1922. An
austere, one-movement work, it begins solemnly. The first theme is quietly
stated by horns against a background of shimmering strings. The woodwind
responds tentatively; orchestral snarls dissolve into disconsolate
introspection. Brass and lower strings express a sudden surge of hope, followed
by orchestral turbulence and a gradual descent into sadness.
Written concurrently with the Ninth
Symphony, Miaskovsky completed his Tenth in 1927. Like Shostakovich's
Seventh, Miaskovsky's Tenth Symphony depicts aspects of Leningrad. The
primary theme of this work is derived from Alexander Benois' illustration to
Pushkin's Bronze Horseman, depicting Eugene's horrific flight from his
pursuer, Falconet's noted statue of Peter the Great.
There are three central motifs in this
work: Eugene, his wife, Parasha, and Peter's equestrian monument. These three
themes are constructed on ten semitones of the chromatic scale and determine
the melodic and harmonic structure of this symphony. Bristling with tension,
this work is a dramatic study of psychological turmoil.
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra has
benefited considerably from the work of its distinguished conductors. These
include Vaclav Talich (1949-1952), Ludovit Rajter, Ladislav Slovak and Libor
Pešek. Zdenék Košler has also had a long and distinguished association with the
orchestra and has conducted many of its most successful recordings, among them
the complete symphonies of Dvorák.
During the years of its professional
existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the direction of many of the
most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene Goossens and Malcolm
Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti. The orchestra has
undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to Germany and Japan, and has
made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus label, for Supraphon, for
Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos labels. These
recordings have brought the orchestra a growing international reputation and
praise from the critics of leading international publications.
Born in Hungary in 1938, Michael Halász
began his professional career as principal bassoonist in the Philharmonia
Hungarica, a position he occupied for eight years, before studying conducting
in Essen. His first engagement as a conductor was at the Munich Gärtnerplatz
Theater, where, from 1972 to 1975, he directed all operetta productions. In
1975 he moved to Frankfurt as principal Kapellmeister under Christoph von
Dohnányi, working with the most distinguished singers and conducting the most
important works of the operatic repertoire. Engagements as a guest-conductor
followed, and in 1977 Dohnányi took him to the Staatsoper in Hamburg as
Last Albums Viewed
MYASKOVSKY: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 10