Nikolai Myaskovsky — The Sixth Symphony
The most precise words about Nikolai Myaskovsky belong to his friend Sergei Prokofiev, "Myaskovsky is more of a philosopher; his music is wise, passionate, gloomy and self-absorbed. He is close to Tchaikovsky here, and I think, he is Tchaikovsky's heir in the Russian music. (...) Myaskovsky's music has reached the genuine profundity of expressiveness and beauty. "
Myaskovsky took up a special position among the modernists who appeared in the sphere of the Russian music in the middle of the 1900-ies: his complex musical style is not an end in itself but a result of his tragic perception of the surrounding world.
"Не (...) has no slightest wish to cover the poignancy of his (...) torments with beautiful self-sufficing forms for the sake of sound ". (B. Asafiev)
Myaskovsky is a composer of two centuries in the full sense of the word — of the 19th and 20th centuries. Being an adherent to the ideals of "the old art" with his interest in the realm of the human soul, Myaskovsky could become a modern artist: his language and style in music are both rather independent and synthetic at the same time. They combine many elements — from expressiveness of the late Skriabin up to linearity and serial in the music of the 1920-ies.
Twenty-seven symphonies created in the period from 1908 to 1950 is a grand chronicle, a reflection of the unique artist's experience in the epoch of downfall of the ideals of "old art" with its thoughts on the fate of the man and the universe. S. Rogovoi used an apt turn of the phrase: "The habit of composing symphonies is equal to the habit of living."
The word is called for help only twice - in the Sixth and the Twenty -Sixth symphonies. Only in the Sixth symphony, that word is pronounced. However, there exist two equal in rights author's versions of the finale — with the chorus and without it. The Sixth symphony in E flat minor, Op. 23 narrates about a tragedy that undermines the foundations of the existence. "Autobiographical notes on the creative life" (1936) were censored and cannot reflect the real content of the symphony. Myaskovsky failed to resist the developing canon of studying his own creative life and chose the lesser of two evils: he told about himself. "Autobiographical notes" is a story of the "reconstructed" modernist. The Sixth symphony is presented here as a chaotic and neurasthenic conception inspired by the scenes of the deserted and cold Petrograd, Myaskovsky's lonely house, memories about the deceased aunt. Emil Verharn's drama "Dawn" also proclaimed the motif of the revolutionary sacrifice. The symphony is a requiem, a cry from the heart on his father, General Myaskovsky who was shot by a revolutionary soldier before his son's very eyes in 1918.
Being an independent and large scaled the Sixth symphony is a finale of the huge super cycle that includes the Fourth and Fifth symphonies. The Fourth symphony is some kind of an Allegro of the super cycle: the immediate war memories saturate it because Myaskovsky was a first lieutenant of the field — engineer company during the WWI. The Fifth symphony is a "quiet" Andante that leads us through the pages of the Petersburg opera classics. The main idea that unites these three symphonies is Dies Irae: the first times of the Fourth symphony make it, then it runs through Andante of the Fifth symphony, finally penetrates the entire Sixth symphony rushing to the finale. There it is compared with the theme of the spiritual verse. These "finale" qualities of the Sixth symphony defined that extraordinary diversity of the themes that was peculiar for Myaskovsky. For example, there are eight themes in the finale.
The architectonics of the four-part symphony resembles Tchaikovsky's Sixth symphony to some extent. The first part of Myaskovsky's work (Poco Largamente. Allegro feroce) is an independent musical drama developing through all the phases. In its finale, one of the side parts transforms into a funeral procession that is a close analogy to the scene of Boris Godunov's death from Mussorgsky "Boris Godunov". The leading contrast of Myaskovsky music releases in comparison of the introductory accords (so called "epigraph") and the main theme of the sonata form.
According to Myaskovsky's words, he "tried Schoenberg" in Scherzo. The matter concerns not the literal following the canons of dodecaphony that Myaskovsky knew well but the elements of twelve tones that strengthened the expressiveness of the inferior theme.
The main theme Andante appassionato could be called the reminiscences of the beautiful outgoing Rus'. The natural breathing combines with magnificent rhythmic but harmonious development. The clarinet performs the theme that Myaskovsky treats as universal elegiac expression. In his late period, it reflects the archetype of Russian perception. This very theme completes the symphony.
"Dies Irae" penetrates the middle parts of the Scherzo and Andante as an outline. Its ambiguous and cold pastorale is akin to Kashevna's lullaby from Rimsky-Korsakov's Kashey Immortal or to Firebird's lullaby from Stravinsky's "Fire Bird".
In the finale (Molto vivace) a unique psychological form appears on the basis of the traditional models: decrescendo from the themes of the times of the French Revolution to the theme of "Dies Irae" and to the spiritual "On Parting of Soul and Body" "that rings as the entire people's lamentation, the whole mankind over mercy." (T. Levaja)
Zum Inhalt der Box:
The Sixth symphony became a symphony of "the survived in Russia". Its first night on May 4, 1924 was accompanied by the stunning success; many of the listeners could not help but shed tears. The Sixth symphony became Myaskovsky's principal message to Man and World.
P. T.Köster in FonoForum 09 / 06: "Unglaublich packende
Einspielung, die hier mit einer fulminanten Wiedergabe
der 'Skythischen Suite' gekoppelt ist."