WORKS: Symphony No. 21; Symphony No. 2; Hamlet Incidental Music
PERFORMER: New Philharmonia Orchestra/David Measham; National PO/Bernard Herrmann
CATALOGUE NO: UKCD 2066 ADD
Come in, Nikolay Myaskovsky (1881-1950)! We all know from the musical dictionaries that you composed 27 symphonies, but it is a pleasure when a few actually come to hand. The Fifth (1918) and Ninth (1926) both retain the traditional four-movement symphonic outline -No. 5 is not quite at ease in evoking the ‘lost’ Russianness of Borodin, but No. 9 is highly acceptable in its more modern, abrupt idiom. The emotional fullness of both suggests comparison not with the symphonies of Myaskovsky’s friend Prokofiev, but with those of Rachmaninov. Edward Downes’s passionately eloquent performance, in richly recorded sound, is just what they need.
Even better, I think, is the work commissioned from this Soviet composer by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Beginning on a solo clarinet, Symphony No. 21 (1940) sustains its intensity over its 16-minute single movement — and this fine performance recorded in 1973 gains a thrilling sound from Bob Auger, famous recording engineer of the time. Of the two other reissues on the disc, Kabalevsky’s Second Symphony conforms more readily to Soviet expectations yet carries a composer’s individuality, and
Shostakovich’s music to Hamletrepsys its rescue in suite form. Arthur Jacobs