Boris Nikoleyevich Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968) is generally regarded as the father of contemporary Ukrainian music and an immense influence on succeeding generation of composers such as Stankovich, Silvestrov, Artyomov, & Baley: a honor shared with Carl Nielsen of Denmark, Sibelius (Finland), Szymanowski (Poland), Kodaly & Bartok (Hungary) and Enesco (Romania).
The Second symphony was completed in 1936 and forcefully revised by the officials in 1940. In many ways, the symphony represents a turning point in Lyatoshynsky's idiom and communication. While the First Symphony shows considerable influences of both Gliere and Scriabin, this symphony, for the most part, rid itself of such influences for the sake of a more independent voice (although Gliere still props up, but less so). It is also a rather bold musical testament against the oppressive weight of Soviet officialdom (think of its contemporary works such as, for instances, Popov's First Symphony and Shostakovich's Fourth). I am willing to bet that the first version of the symphony is a good deal more bolder and uninhibited than the "forced" second version. Nevertheless, this work is regarded as highly as the symphonies of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Myaskovsky.
The Third Symphony of 1951, likewise revised under orders of the Soviet censors in 1954, is the most popular of Lyatoshynsky's five symphonies, and with good reasons. It is Lyatoshynsky's more mature symphony and the one that is has a great deal more of integration and organic growth of its ideas. It also represents more compellingly the mood of Ukrainian people: from anguish and despair in the first movement, to profound poetic beauty in the second, to some of the playfulness in the third, and finally the to hard earned victory in the finale. The sort of "from darkness to light" idea of the work is anything but original (Shostakovich "Lennigrad?"), but the expression behind it is as genuine as it comes. The composer used the epigraph "Peace Will Defeat War" in the last movement of the original score, until he was forced to remove it. A terrible misfortune, since the epigraph very likely would have meant "Free living, free thinking minds will defeat repression." Listening to the finale, there is nothing wrong to assume that overcoming repression was on the composer's mind when composing this masterpiece. Does this reminds you of Kodaly's Psalmus Hungaricus?
The performances of the Ukrainian State Symphony under Theodore Kuchar are simply superb and artful. The Marco Polo recording is quite superb, if having a bit too much bass. Regardless, this benchmark recording will be the one against which all future recordings will be measured. I hope that the same team will record Lyatoshynsky's other works, such as, say, Slavonic Concerto, Suite "Romeo and Juliet", operas "The Golden Ring" and "Schchors." That said, this Marco Polo series will do very nicely for the time being.