The Third Symphony shudders forward aggressive and driven with resentment and bitter bile. Melancholy even tinges the hints of brightness as at 3.31 in the first movement. And in those trumpet gestures clawing upwards in spavine splendour we see both an inheritance from Scriabin and a legacy unmistakably embraced by Miaskovsky pupil, Khachaturyan. If you know the emotional slough in which Bax's Second Symphony heroically basks and rises from much of the first of the two movements will be familiar. It is at the same time both tense and pessimistic. The gloom has a tendency to stifle. Finally, listen to the rattle and gripe of the brass as the work stutters to end of the 25 min second and final movement. I compared the 1965 sound of this disc with the original Olympia Melodiya licensed disc OCD 177 and the deeper brass sounded noticeably better in the new transfer but the slavonic steel soprano tones of the trumpet benches seem identical. There probably isn't much in it. OCD 177 was AAD. This issue is ADD.
Until the mid-1990s few people knew anything about the Thirteenth Symphony except that it probably had to exist as there was a Twelfth and a Fifteeenth (both had been recorded). The Fourteenth had to wait until the Svetlanov set was issued to stagger blinking into the sunlight. The BBC commissioned the first performance in modern times from the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nimbus Rachmaninov and Mathias specialist, Tadaaki Otaka. It was revealed as a soul brother to No. 3: equally gloomy of mien but tonally adventurous - so much so that, its clarity of orchestration aside, it suggests Bernard van Dieren in the Chinese Symphony. Frank Bridge (There is a Willow and Phantasm), Bax (specifically with reference to the Second Northern Ballad) and Berg are other triangulation points. Svetlanov gives us the world's first ever commercial recording and makes what I take to be an expressionist success of it. This is a twenty minute single movement essay in contemplation and stormy hammerhead clouds. The scurry of the strings and the crump and grump of the brass are impressive. Do not expect Tchaikovskian dramatics. This work is a denizen of the lower registers. Its length is comparable with the much more prominent Twenty-First but otherwise there are few parallels. There is a studio cough at 11.55 in the second movement. Miaskovsky also regales us with a somnolent yet magisterial brass chorale like a hymn to something without a garish atom in its being. The slowly melting relentlessly drift icy sheets of string sound (17.55) recall Pettersson - another pessimist or at least a traveller in the underworld with a mission to find moonlight; certainly not the dazzling glare of the sun. Yes Petterssonians will want this fix of Miaskovsky. When the work ends (peters out really) it evokes the bedraggled motion of a fatigued clock. This is Lemminkainen in Tuonela without the Swan, without the high jinks of the Homecoming and with none of the amorous adventures with the Maidens of Saari.