For Russian Music Mavens, a Fabled Beast Is Bagged

Richard Taruskin

in On Russian Music

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249790
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942806 | DOI:
For Russian Music Mavens, a Fabled Beast Is Bagged

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This chapter analyzes the style, history, and form of Russian composer Nikolai Myaskovsky, who has always been the collectors' cult composer par excellence. What made him nevertheless copious was his freakishly prolific output. Despite a late start after a first career as a military engineer, Myaskovsky logged three Beethovens' worth of symphonies, and a respectable harvest of concertos, tone poems, piano sonatas, and songs, along with a couple of potboiler party-line cantatas. He excelled at traditional symphonic writing because, regardless of style, he nurtured an old-fashioned narrative conception of musical structure and expression. Narrative, in this sense, need not imply a program, only an assumption that significance, formal or expressive, arises out of a linked series of unfolding events. Myaskovsky's stylistic diversity, it thus turns out, cannot be explained away as a response to external stimuli. The great thing about hearing his symphonic output whole is the way it complicates and enlarges him.

Keywords: Nikolai Myaskovsky; Nikolai Myaskovsky; cult composer; piano sonatas; tone poems

Chapter.  2632 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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