Although Nikolai Miaskovsky is among the most unknown and rarely performed composers today, he was regarded as leading a Russian symphonist during his lifetime. After an early education in the military, following the family tradition, Miaskovsky was accepted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1906 at the age of 25, making him the oldest in his class. He went on to become a professor at Moscow Conservatory in 1921 where he taught until his death in 1950. This tenure solidified his career as a prolific composer and his reputation as “the musical conscience of Moscow” during the Soviet period.
Miaskovsky viewed the symphony as a narrative with an inner psychological and philosophical plot. Naturally somewhat introverted and pessimistic, his compositions generally alternate between intimacy and grandeur, brooding slow movements and boisterous finales. Of the 27 symphonies Miaskovsky composed, Symphony No. 6 is his largest and most ambitious—it is the only one to feature a chorus—and reflects the tumultuous period of the 1920’s Russia, with its evocation of French revolutionary songs and Russian church hymns.
Recorded live during the concert, Forgotten Patriotisms: Music as Political History
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Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director