Myaskovsky's Legacy Revived
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the 120th anniversary of the birth of Nikolai Miaskovksy
April 20 marked the 120th anniversary of the birth of the Russian composer Nikolai Myaskovsky. (1881-1950).
"The aim of creation is self-sacrifice and not publicity or success" - these lines from a poem by Boris Pasternak perfectly illustrate the live and work of Nikolai Myaskovsky, one of the brightest representatives of the Russian music culture.
In autumn 1906 a young man dressed in sapper's uniform entered the class of the well-known composer Anatoly Lyadov. It was Nikolai Myaskovsky. His decision to enroll in the conservatoire was a daring move on the part of the young sapper. According to the family tradition he was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. For some time he managed to combine military service with music classes, but before long he realized that he must concentrate entirely on music. Later Myaskovsky became a conservatory professor. Among his students were such brilliant musicians as Aram Khachutryan, Vissarion Shebalin and Dmitry Kabalevsky. He devoted much time to editing scores by domestic and foreign composers. His articles for the Music magazine were distinguished by the soundness of judgement and fair criticism. Myaskovsky's legacy comprises 27 symphonies, 13 quartets, sonatas for piano, concertos for violin and cello, lyrical cycles.
Unfortunately, today his music is quite rarely heard. During his lifetime his 5th symphony, for example, caused a real sensation in the world of music. The Moscow premiere was followed by triumphant concerts in Madrid, Prague, Vienna and Chicago. Myaskovsky was somewhat outshone by such renowned 20th century composers as Prokofiev and Shostakovich, although both held him in high esteem. Prokofiev always valued Myaskovsky's opinion. What's more, living abroad, he did much to popularize his music. In his letters he shared his impressions of various interpretations of Myaskovsky's symphonies by Leopold Stokovsky, Alexandr Gauk, Sergey Kusevitsky and other celebrated conductors.
Myaskovsky's music incorporated the best traditions of Russian and West-European music. It is profoundly intellectual. The famous pianist Genrikh Neigauz wrote that "his music is full of thought and that it generates thought".
40 years after Myaskovsky's death conductor Yevgeny Svetlanov made it his duty to revive his undeservedly forgotten legacy. Together with his symphony orchestra he recorded all of Myaskovsky's 27 symphonies and 12 pieces for orchestra. In Svetalnov's opinion, Myaskovksy's legacy doesn't need protection or rehabilitation, it needs attention and propaganda: "His symphonies are an array of emotions, conflicts and reflections that enriched our music culture. His 27th symphony is a true masterpiece".