String Quartet No.4 in f minor, Op.33 No.4
Despite the fact that Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950) wrote some 27 symphonies and 13 string quartets, he and his music are barely known. This is virtually impossible to explain, especially when you play or listen to his innovative, original and appealing music. We feel his quartets deserve to be ranked alongside those of Shostakovich and Prokofiev and hope professionals and amateurs alike will take the opportunity to get to know them.
Myaskovsky was born in Congress (i.e. Russian) Poland near Warsaw, where his father, a military engineer was then serving. He took piano and violin lessons as a boy but followed in his father's footsteps, entering the military academy and graduating as an engineer. When he was posted to Moscow, he studied composition with Reinhold Gliere. Upon transfer to St. Petersburg, he finally decided to become a composer and entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov. It was there he met Prokofiev with whom he became close friends. He served in WWI and was severely wounded on the Austrian front. After the war, he taught for most of his life at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his many students were Kabalevsky, Khatchaturian, Shebalin and Shchedrin.
String Quartet No.4 was composed between 1909-1910 two years before Myaskovsky graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The Quartet begins with a slow, reflective Andante introduction, which leads to a passionate Allegro, the second theme of which is more quiet. The second movement, Allegro risoluto, is in three sections. The outer sections are characterized by their vigorous rhythmic themes while the middle section has a more lyrical dance-like mood. Next comes an Andante. Its broad, main theme is quite fluid, while a second theme is based on Russian folk melody. In the energetic finale, Allegro molto, the composer uses a transparent harmony and is concerned with the interchange of thematic material between the four voices.
This Quartet as well as his others are every bit as deserving of our attention as those of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, those of Myaskovsky are every bit as deserving of our attention. This is another first class work which belongs in the concert hall but which also should be of interest to amateurs.