If someone were to tell me that there is a Soviet composer of whom I’ve barely heard, who composed 26 symphonies and 17 string quartets, many of which deserve to be in the standard repertoire, my first reaction would probably be to assume they meant Nikolay Myaskovsky – that modest, noble-minded ‘musical conscience of Moscow’ who composed 27 symphonies and 13 quartets, some of which do speak with a unique and treasurable voice. But if that same informant said no, it’s someone entirely different, then I should probably have to stifle a groan. What, yet another ‘neglected genius’? Presumably one of those countless moderate or eccentric talents who deserved a better roll of the dice but who is never going to be more than a footnote in musical history? And even if I should come to share my enthusiast’s point of view, isn’t life too short to add such a quantity of must-know music to the in-tray? And if those are my hypothetical reactions – as a supposed specialist in the field – what can I expect when I’m the one trying to do the persuading? Well, if you are reading this essay, I suppose I can at least count on your curiosity.
more from David Fanning at Sign and Sight here.