Nikolai Miaskovsky, Symphony No. 22, performed by the USSR Symphony Orchestra, Evgeny Svetlanov conducting; Miaskovsky, Violin Concerto in D minor, performed by violinist Grigori Feigin, the USSR Symphony, Alexander Dimitriev conducting (Classics from Russia MEL 46019-2): Classics from Russia is a new, super-budget line out of Germany that consists of reissues from Russia's Melodiya catalog. These splendid 1974 performances were not recorded digitally, but they bring to the catalog works by Miaskovsky (1881-1950), one of the most neglected -- in the West, at least -- figures of 20th century music. Miaskovsky is best known for having written 27 (!) symphonies. What is not as well appreciated is that he was almost as talented a composeras Elgar or Nielsen. The Violin Concerto, which was written for David Oistrakh, is a superbly lyrical work that is beautifully constructed. It's played by Feigin, an Oistrakh student, with warmth and virtuosity. The symphony -- a big, ambitious piece with a troubled and affecting beginning -- is impressively performed. At less than $6, this disc is next to impossible to resist.
Miaskovsky, Symphony No. 27, performed by the USSR Academic Symphony Orchestra, Evgeny Svetlanov conducting; Miaskovsky, Sinfonietta, performed by the USSR Academic Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Verbitzky (Classics from Russia Mel 46020-2): The symphony recorded here is one of the last things Miaskovsky ever wrote. It is a typically warm and lyrical work that could have been composed by a contemporary of Borodin or Rimsky-orsakov. The Sinfonietta -- though written earlier -- shares the symphony's attractive character. These are both good performances -- recorded at about the end of the 1970s, as I remember -- but the one by Svetlanov is the more powerful of the two. Anyone interested in this composer's music should snap these records up, especially at these prices. It would be terrific if the Germans scouring the Melodiya catalog for Classics from Russia were to come up with first-class Russian performances of Miaskovsky's piano works. Sviatoslav Richter used to play a good deal of Miaskovsky's music, always making a persuasive case for it. One can't help but wonder about the existence of tapes of Richter (or Emil Gilels or any of the other giant Russian keyboard players) playing Miaskovsky in the radio archives of Russia or other eastern European countries.
HEAR THE MUSIC
To hear an excerpt from Miaskovsky's Violin Concerto in D minor, performed by violinist Grigori Feigin and the USSR Symphony, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6190 after you hear the greeting.