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Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic enthral with Myaskovsky and Prokofiev Symphonies

The eminent composer and professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950) had met Sergei Prokofiev, ten years his junior, during their joint years of study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where both were trained by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Anatoly Lyadov.

The friendship between the composers lasted a lifetime. Myaskovsky taught at the Moscow Conservatory, where he had worked since 1921, among others Dmitri Shostakovich, Dmitri Kabalevsky and Andrei Eschpai. However, he could not achieve with his own works anything comparable to the worldwide success of Prokofiev and Shostakovich attained, although his music was always highly praised by many listeners and specialist audiences in particular. 

As British music critic Norman Lebrecht wrote in his review of this new CD published by “The Critic”: “(...) I wish we could hear more of Nikolai Myaskovsky. Myaskovsky keeps his symphonies very short and is reserved with his emotions. The 21st Symphony, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1940, takes us through four interlocking movements in just a quarter of an hour (...)”.

The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of its former chief conductor Vasily Petrenko has succeeded in directly juxtaposing Prokofiev’s opulent, enormously expressive and long 5th symphony with the, let’s say, symphonic concentrate of the 21st symphony of Myaskovsky. Petrenko had led the Norwegian top orchestra for seven years from 2013 to 2020 and handed over the chief position to Klaus Mäkelä in the current season. 

A great deal of passion accompanies the Andante head movement of the 5th symphony, in which Petrenko makes the woodwinds in particular come into their own. In stark contrast to the lyrical parts of this movement and the Adagio are the sharply and angularly played Allegro marcato and the finale with hymnic ending. Compared to Prokofiev, the Oslo Philharmonic brings out the exclusive sound qualities of the yet more fragile and extremely delicate structure of Myaskovsky’s 21st symphony quite impressively. 

Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony Nr. 5 op. 100
Nikolai Myaskovsky: Symphony Nr. 21 op. 51
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; conductor: Vasily Petrenko
LAWO Classic LWC 1207

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