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Latest news: Recordings of the violin concerto on Naxos (with the Vainberg,) of the 6th symphony on DG (conducted by Jarvi,) of the complete symphonies on Olympia (in progress.)

Note: The sixth symphony was performed this past season (December 13, 2000) by the American Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, principal conductor Leon Botstein (unspecified whether he, or Richard Wilson, conducted that particular concert.)

Symphonies:

sym. 4 in e minor, op. 17. Three movements (in e, Ab attacca g#->e->E?) with more harmonic asperity than had been characteristic of Miaskovskii in earlier symphonies (the finale of the second symphony the touchstone here?) and a fine violin solo in the second movement. Need to hear this more.

sym. 14 in C major, op. 37. 5 movements, the first a compact sonata with a slow introduction, the second an a-minor slow movement excerpted in Ikonnikov's biography (with a faster middle section,) the third a quicksilver scherzo in C, the fourth powerfully elegiac preceding the concluding rondo.

sym. 20 in E major, op. 50. This 3-movement symphony has a first movement in E with a lengthy in-tempo introduction, a slow movement in C, and a finale in e minor ending largamente (with a quote of the slow movement's main theme) in E major. The only recording to date is in Svetlanov's cycle available now on an Olympia CD. (Previous edits to this section removed/incorporated for the time being!)

Quartets:

quartet no. 1 in a minor, op. 33 no. 1. 4 movements. The first movement, in a minor, is in sonata form. The opening bars serve as introduction, preceding a chromatic main theme. The second theme is impressionistic in atmosphere. The coda subsides on a simultaneous A major-B-flat major chord.

The second movement, in f# minor, shares an idee fixe with the 11th symphony and the (much later) 12th quartet (their first movement and finale, respectively.) The transition to the trio section of this movement is especially fraught. The ending is ambiguous between major and minor. This scherzo is emotionally potent.

The third movement, in d minor, is essentially a-b-a. There are similarities with the third movement of the 9th symphony, though this is a better movement, I think- a less generically exotic, more pointedly lamenting, main melody. The middle section, among other things, has a brief reference back to the first movement. The ending is clear d minor, with the viola a last-minute suspension bringing its E up to an F.

The brief finale, in a minor, is emotionally the lightest of the four movements. All the same, a subsidiary theme shares features with a moment in the coda of the finale of Brahms' 2nd string quartet in the same key, being at first long sustained chords as though looking out from being in shock. The last moments bring a tremendous buildup, a dissonance, and a sudden A major arpeggio played very rapidly (in the only existing recording it sounds like an A octave descent, with no other notes audible.)

Along with sym. 2, this is Miaskovski's most powerful work, in my opinion. It's not hard to see, or rather hear, why.

quartet no. 2 in c minor, op. 33 no. 2. First movement in c minor, second movement in e minor ending E, finale in C major with some humor.

quartet no. 3 in d minor, op. 33 no. 3. First movement in d minor. Finale an andante with variations, and a coda in minor. (Formal plan quite similar to that of Taneyev's 3rd quartet.) Like the 4th quartet, written much earlier than the first two, but revised at about the time the first two were written.

quartet no. 4 in f minor, op. 33 no. 4. Four movements. First movement, in f minor, is an introduction and faster sonata-movement; the introduction contains some motives important in the third, slow, movement. The first theme of the sonata-form is reminiscent of that of Mendelssohn's octet, first movement; that is the only weakness (if it is one) in a taut, memorable piece. The tempo of the introduction returns at the end.

The second movement, in D-flat major, is a somewhat Tschaikovsky-ish scherzo in some ways. There is a minor-mode trio. The whole thing's a deal of fun.

The third movement, in b-flat minor, is basically a sonata-form without development. There is a recurring cadence in this movement, related to the first movement introduction, which to me at least is something of a tear-jerker. The second theme is perhaps somewhat weak.

The finale, a sonata without introduction in f minor, makes prominent use of tritones (B-natural in this case) in its main theme, and comes to an angry f minor-close.

quartet no. 5 in e minor, op. 47. Four movements, I believe. The first movement is in e minor. The second movement is a scherzo in a minor and has been transcribed for piano solo (in which form it has been recorded.) The third movement, in f# minor, is expressive. The finale is in E major.

quartet no. 6 in g minor, op. 49. Four movements. In some ways even better than the fourth quartet, though without the particular special moments that bring me back to that work. It does, however, seem to have a few of its own. The first movement, in g minor, is fairly typical Miaskovski-in-low-key sonata form, very lyrical and not a little sad (here similarities are perhaps more to the first movements of quartets 1 and 13 than to that of quartet 4). The scherzo, in B-flat major, is well-done. A melancholic slow movement in e-flat minor with an obstinate middle section and overall a-b-a form (and a reference to the middle-section at the end) is followed by a finale, opening aggressively with slashing chords in g minor, ending there. It has a middle section in E and is more or less in rondo form.

quartet no. 8 in f# minor, op. 59. Three movements: an allegro moderato in sonata form with interesting textures, an adagio in D major but solemn mood (curiously livelier for a minor-mode middle section), and an allegro drammatico in f# minor ending major with an unsurprisingly-for-Miaskovski characterful main theme.

quartet no. 12 in G major, op. 77. Four movements. The first movement is preceded by a minor-mode introduction which also opens the slow third movement. The main body of the movement, a sonata-form, has a fairly infectious main theme.

The second movement is a g minor scherzo with strange orchestration.

The third movement is a c minor slow movement that begins with a fugato based on the opening to the first movement.

The substantial G major finale begins with two themes in close succession and is something of a sonata-rondo. There is a second group of themes, one of which bears a very close resemblance to a theme common to the first string quartet and 11th symphony.

Chamber Music:

Violin sonata in F major, op. 70. Not identical with the 2 (often-recorded) cello sonatas opp. 12& 81. This is in 2 movements, in F major and f minor respectively (the latter a theme and variations ending with a variation marked "Finale" in F major). More as I've skimmed the score more.
(Update 8-19-00. Have heard this piece. Watch this space.)

Piano Music:

Nothing for now, except to mention that the work in D. Agay's "Easy Classics to Moderns," vol. 17, called "Fugue in Classic Style" by Miaskovski is the work op. 43 no. 2. (Based on earlier material by the composer.)