Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 27; Cello Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Miaskovsky
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 27; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Alexander Ivashkin (cello); Russian State SO/Valeri Polyansky
Miaskovsky had his radical modernist side, most to the fore in the Twenties. But late in life, when ‘formalism’ was a crime punishable by a possible life sentence, he produced some of his most loveable music: scores of profoundly old-fashioned stylistic orientation, melodiously instinctive with bone-deep nostalgia and bittersweet elegy for a vanished, more innocent world. Ivashkin’s fine performance of the Cello Concerto, more emotionally secure than Maisky’s on DG, doesn’t outdo the ardour of the young Rostropovich (EMI, 1956), but Polyansky’s direction of the orchestral component is much richer than Sargent’s.


Symphony No. 27 is given a reading to match its nobility and proud assertion of a Russian symphonic tradition that goes back, predominantly, to Tchaikovsky. The first movement’s shades of the Pathétique give way, in one of the composer’s finest slow movements, to a pastoral rumination worthy of Brahms. As for that seething, oceanic waltz of a finale – the booklet notes gloss, all too inevitably, the emergence of the military march as a conventional expression of C major triumph, failing to note how the coda blows it away into the minor, with Francesca da Rimini-style whirlwinds, ending all in a sardonic fury. The impending Svetlanov recording from Olympia, superseding his 1980 one for Melodiya, will be hard put to better this superbly played and recorded Chandos version. Calum MacDonald