Myaskovsky's inspiration was Pushkin's story of the Bronze Horseman, where a man, whose lover has died in a terrible flood, rages against fate. The huge bronze statue of Peter the Great comes off its plinth and hunts the man down. Even in Pushkin's time, that could be read as a protest against unfair authority. In 1927, as Stalin was consolidating power, it was shockingly brave of Myaskovsky to choose such a subject.
It's Alexander Goehr's 80th birthday this year, honoured by a special BBC commission, When Adam Fell. Numerous composers in the audience, as Goehr is an important figurehead. It's nicely orchestrated. Goehr himself connects it to one of his best known works, The Deluge, using texts by Sergei Eisenstein, evolving like collage in film. Another Prokofiev connection! Knussen, that master of erudite programming must have chuckled. When Adam Fell is lighter and more scintillating, all bright, sparkling sounds, percussion reduced to two desks of marimba and bell-like effects. References, too, to Bach's chorale Durch Adam's Fall ist alles verderbt. (photo Elan Tal)
Goehr studied with Hanns Eisler in East Berlin, who had worked with Schoenberg, as did Goehr's father Walter. Again, Knussen's programming genius came up with Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony no 1, which like Goehr's new work eschews percussion. Full circle, a subtle tribute. Not the usual version this time, but the revison for large orchestra created in 1935 which fleshes out the same basic structure with extra voices. The BBCSO trumpets and horns had a great time, vivacious! One of the joys of the original is its audacious compression, which gets lost with larger forces, but Knussen made it lively and cheerful. Several big names in the audience drifted off after the Goehr piece, but Goehr himself stayed on to listen. Afterwards, his face was lit up with happiness. A good man!
LISTEN TO THIS CONCERT on BBC Radio 3 til Friday