Connoisseurs of Russian, or more properly, of Soviet music will recognize the name of Nicolai Miaskovsky and will likely know his somber, beautiful Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, roughly coeval with although slightly earlier than Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante. Miaskovsky's Cello Concerto has enjoyed a number of recordings since Rostropovich recorded it for EMI in the early 1960s and has rarely been out of the catalogue. Miaskovsky's symphonies (he wrote twenty-seven of them) are a different matter, despite the fact that they represent his main achievement. Only one, the Twenty-First, a one-movement affair requiring about fifteen minutes in performance, has ever gained anything like currency in the West. Frederick Stock gave the premiere in Chicago in 1940; Ormandy recorded it, and it appeared on a Unicorn LP in the late 1970s in a performance under David Measham. A few Melodiya recordings made their way to North American in the 1960s and 70s, most prominently a rendition under Svetlanov of the Twenty-Second, a "war symphony" full of alternating melancholy and strife, with prominent and impressive parts for the horns. More recently, Marco Polo has offered a handful of the symphonies, as has Russian Disc; the lamentably defunct Classical Revelation label also included several Miaskovsky symphonies in its rich, if evanescent catalogue. Despite this, Miaskovsky has been something of a rare bird among important names in Soviet symphonism. All the more then is Valeri Polyansky's new disc from Chandos a welcome one, for it gives us not only superb rendering of the Cello Concerto but something close to a recorded premiere of Miaskovsky's last symphony, the Twenty-Seventh, from 1950, the year of his death. Polyansky has been active under a Chandos contract for some years now, offering representations of Rachmaninov, Glazunov, and Shostakovich: the foray into Miaskovsky is a natural furtherance of his survey of Muscovite and Petersburger music of the pre-revolutionary through the totalitarian periods. Miaskovsky was a remarkably consistent composer, finding his style while still a conservatory student. The idiom lies somewhere between the Rachmaninov and Scriabin: basically tonal and late-Romantic, with an interest, now greater and now lesser, in chromatic extensions of the harmony in the manner of "The Divine Poem." A Russian accent is always noticeable. Miaskovsky has a preference, like Rachmaninov, for minor modes and dark colors: these appear in his First Symphony, written under the supervision of Gliere in 1905, and they are still present forty-five years later in the Twenty-Seventh, although the outlines are now leaner, the sense of form more acute. There was once a Melodiya LP of the Twenty-Seventh, with Alexander Gauk leading the USSR Symphony Orchestra, from a master tape recorded in 1950. I have remembered the Twenty-Seventh (in C Minor) from that scratchy and dim LP although it disappeared when I discarded my "record library" twelve or fifteen years ago. Polyansky's new performance confirms what my memory told me: A brooding, lyrical motto, first heard in the low woodwinds, becomes the melodic touchstone of the whole symphony, which Miaskovsky casts in three movements; these are an Adagio - Allegro Animato, an Adagio, and a Presto non Troppo. Shostakovich reacted to Stalinism with irony; Miaskovsky reacts with nostalgia. Even the two outer, faster panels are full of folksong-like "song periods" similar to those in Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. The return of the motto theme on flute at about 5.20 into the First Movement is a case in point. If the listener is neither wood nor stone then his heart shall melt. The Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, written during the war has preserved Miaskovsky's name in the recorded music catalogues since the mid-1950s, when the first of Rostropovich's traversals appeared. Just now there are two or three competing versions available. Alexander Ivashkin, who has also recorded the Schnittke concertos with Polyansky, has a warm and appealing tone that suits this slow and quiet music perfectly. This is a lovely recording - even the packaging is nice, with its autumn colors. Chandos scores another one. recommended.