In the last two centuries Russia has surely given the world a greater abundance of outstanding composers than any other country, and it is therefore unsurprising that a few of them – despite their remarkable achievements – have not become known in the West to the degree that they deserve. One such figure is Nikolai Myaskovsky, whose output for orchestra is one ot the largest since the times of Mozart and Haydn – 27 symphonies! Not only the size of his œuvre but also its artistic level is admirable, in all genres (except opera, of which he wrote none), and in works of large and small pro portions alike. His music was modern but not radical: he combined an often typically Russian melodic style with harmonies and formal characteristics that could be encountered with the contemporary French group Les Six.
At First Myaskovsky became a military officer (by no means uncommon for a Russian composer), and he subsequently studied under Anatoly Liadov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he became a close friend of a fellow-student ten years his junior, Sergei Prokofiev they made their débuts as composers in the same concert. In 1921 he became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, and this marked the beginning of his work as a distinguished teacher: Khachaturian and Kabalevsky were among his pupils.
One might imagine that anybody who composed 27 symphonies of modern proportions would have little time left to write other works, but Myaskovsky’s creative énergies were virtually supernatural. Apart from the sympho nies he wrote fifteen further symphonie works in other genres, plus everything imaginable – from solo concertos, Chamber music (13 string quartets), more than a hundred piano pieces and about a hundred songs to music for military band plus several cantatas.