Composers of Today: A Comprehensive Biographical and Critical Guide to Modern Composers of All Nations

By David Ewen | Go to book overview
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of the grotesque. Medtner's fantastic world, which opens for us thru the sounds of his Fairy-Tales, is not the world of elves and witchery, but the poetry of ancient heroic legends, and most of all an echo of the underworld of Nibelungs, gnomes and mountain- kings. . . . It has no brightness or radiance, but dusk and darkness. Occasionally it has ominousness, and a certain closeness. In his Fairy-Tales, Medtner is neither heavenly nor ethereal, nor in the clouds, but earthly, even earthy, subterranean."Principal works by Nikolai Medtner:
PIANO: Sonata in F-Minor; Arabesques; Fairy-Tales; Dithyrambs; Sonata in G- Minor; Sonata in E-Minor; First Piano Concerto; Nocturnes; Canzonas; Dances; Second Piano Concerto, etc.
CHAMBER MUSIC: Sonata in B-Minor (for violin and piano); Sonata in G-Major (for violin and piano).
SONGS.

About Nikolai Medtner:

Jakowlew V. Nikolai Medtner; Sabaneyev Leonid . Modern Russian Composers.


Nikolai Miaskovsky 1881-

"He is the greatest of living Russian symphonists since Glazunov."--VICTOR BELAIEV

NIKOLAI JACOVLEVITCH MIASKOVSKY was born in the fortress Novogeorgievsk, Russia (now Poland) on April 20, 1881. His father, a general of engineers in the Russian army, was determined that his son follow in his footsteps, and Nikolai was trained as an engineer. Music was a hobby which was not permitted to interefere with his profession. After acquiring a position as engineer in the army, Miaskovsky suddenly realized that his life was being shaped in the wrong mould: music had by now become something more than a mere pastime. After much vacillation, Miaskovsky finally decided to make the brave gesture. He foresook engineering and entered the Petrograd Conservatory, in 1906, becoming a fellow-pupil of Prokofieff under Glière and Rimsky- Korsakoff. Five years were spent in intensive study to fill in the many technical gaps caused by an inadequate musical training in boyhood. Composition engaged Miaskovsky's interests as soon as he graduated from the Conservatory, and his early works were surprisingly impressive because of a very intricate technique and a noble conception. Prokofieff, for example, has written about one of Miaskovsky's early works--a Piano Sonata--in this fashion: "It is complex, but those who are frightened away by its complexity will have ignored qualities such as nobility of material, carefulness of workmanship and a general attractiveness which render it one of the most interesting sonatas of modern times."

In 1914, Miaskovsky served in the Russian army on the Austrian front, and his musical career, begun so auspiciously, came to an abrupt halt. But with the end of the war, music once again became the major interest in his life. He began composition with a renewed zest and passion which, hemmed in for so long a time, now rushed forth with an uncontrolled force, and his productivity was amazing. In 1921, Miaskovsky became professor of composition in the Moscow Conservatory of Music, and since that time he has divided his time between teaching and composition.

Miaskovsky came to the fore as a composer of importance in the post- revolutionary period, when he graduated into the class of symphonic composers. Since 1921, performances of Miaskovsky's symphonies thruout the world have convinced the music world that he is a major force in the musical life of modern Russia.

Miaskovsky, as Leonid Sabaneyev informs us, "is a reactionary rather than a revolutionary. . . . With his music he pulls at his own and other people's nerves. . . . He loves dissonant, tart harmonies. He loves annoying, cutting harmonies. Occasionally he deliberately disregards the sense of measure in monotony and hypnotically wearies his hearers. Clarity is entirely foreign in his music; his music is a heavy, disorganized dream, or an oppressive sickly idea. . . . Occasionally it would seem the composer deliberately did not want beauty of sounds, as tho he forced his hearers to reside in a world of deliberate musical ugliness, of poor sonorities, of

____________________
Miaskovski: myŭs-kŭv′skē

-170-

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