WORKS: Piano Sonatas (complete),
PERFORMER: Murray McLachlan (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: OCD 704 ABC
Miaskovsky (1881-1950) was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and teacher of Khachaturian and Kabalevsky. He was a prolific composer with 27 symphonies to his credit, but his nine piano sonatas sound like the work of about half a dozen different people. There’s some confusion over the order in which they were written, but Murray McLachlan, the pianist on these discs, places them in three groups – the ‘late Romantic’ (Nos 1, 5 and 6), the radical and progressive (Nos 2, 3 and 4) and the simple and derivative (Nos 7, 8 and 9). The last three were written in 1949, when Miaskovsky, like most Russian composers of true distinction, had fallen foul of the Soviet authorities and been accused of the nebulous crime of ‘formalism’.
McLachlan sees in these last sonatas shades of Schumann and Dvorák (No. 7), Tchaikovsky (No. 8) and Prokofiev, Debussy and Scarlatti (No. 9), but whatever the influences, the music is attractive. The Song-Idyll in the Eighth Sonata keeps trying to become Salut d’amour.
McLachlan is a pianist with a virtuoso technique and a sure sense of line. His timing and phrasing are impeccable, and his tone – full but unforced in the powerful passages, gentle and restrained in the more lyrical – is a perpetual delight. Wadham Sutton