Miaskovskii, Nikolai Iakovlevich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Miaskovskii, Nikolai Iakovlevich


Born Apr. 8(20), 1881, in Novogeorgievsk, present-day Modlin, Poland; died Aug. 8, 1950, in Moscow. Soviet composer. People’s Artist of the USSR (1946). Doctor of the arts (1940).

Miaskovskii was the son of a military engineer. He received his education in a cadet corps. He studied music from childhood. From 1899 to 1902, Miaskovskii studied at the Military Engineers’ School, after which he served in the military in Moscow and St. Petersburg until 1908. At the same time, he studied music theory under R. M. Glière and I. I. Kryzhanovskii. In 1911, Miaskovskii graduated from the composition class of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he studied under A. K. Liadov and N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov. It was at the conservatory that Miaskovskii’s lifelong friendship with S. S. Prokofiev began. Also at that time, Miaskovskii’s works began to be performed in concert and to be published; these works included his First Symphony (1908), his Sinfonietta (1910), the symphonic parable Silence (1909), two string quartets, a sonata and other pieces for piano, and a number of vocal works.

In 1911, Miaskovskii became a music critic for the Moscow journal Muzyka (Music). His article “Beethoven and Tchaikovsky” (1912) was of particular importance.

Early in World War I, Miaskovskii was mobilized and served at the front. The composer later asserted that impressions of the war served to elucidate his musical ideas (Fourth and Fifth symphonies, 1918). After the Great October Socialist Revolution, Miaskovskii worked on the Naval General Staff. In 1921 he was demobilized, and he went to live in Moscow.

Miaskovskii, one of the most authoritative Russian musicians, worked for the new society from the very first years of Soviet power. In 1919 he went to work in the music publishing house of the People’s Commissariat for Education. From 1932 to 1948, Miaskovskii was a member of the organizational committee of the Union of Soviet Composers. In 1921 he became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, where he trained about 70 composers, including V. Ia. Shebalin, A. I. Khachaturian, D. B. Kabalevskii, V. G. Fere, and G. G. Galynin.

Miaskovskii was one of the major symphonic composers of modern times, producing 27 symphonies and a number of other works for symphony orchestra. Miaskovskii’s work is characterized by an independent interpretation of classical traditions; a diversity of treatment reflecting themes, images, and emotions of modern reality; complexity and seriousness in his musical thought; a tireless searching for the new; frequent, but extremely free, treatment of folk themes; and high artistry. Almost every one of his symphonies poses a new creative problem. Especially noteworthy are the songlike themes of the Fifth Symphony, the tragic themes of the Sixth (1923), the heroic themes of the 16th (1936); the lyrical themes of the 21st (1940; State Prize of the USSR, 1941) and the 27th (1949; State Prize of the USSR, 1951); and the 19th Symphony (1939), a work for wind orchestra.

Miaskovskii composed a number of works for chamber ensembles, most notably 13 string quartets, of which the Ninth won the State Prize of the USSR in 1946 and the 13th won the State Prize in 1951. Miaskovskii’s orchestral concerti—for violin (1938) and for cello (1944; State Prize of the USSR, 1946)—were composed in close collaboration with Soviet performers.

Miaskovskii’s other works include nine piano sonatas; two cello sonatas (the second won the State Prize of the USSR in 1950); vocal works, including the cantatas Kirov Is With Us (words by N. S. Tikhonov, 1942) and The Kremlin by Night (words by S. A. Vasil’ev, 1947); cycles of art songs to words by E. A. Baratynskii, K. D. Bal’mont, Z. N. Hippius, Viach. I. Ivanov, A. A. Blok, F. I. Tiutchev, A. A. Del’vig, M. Iu. Lermontov, S. P. Shchipachev, and R. Burns; popular songs; and choruses. He was awarded the Order of Lenin.


Livanova, T. N. Ia. Miaskovskii: Tvorcheskii put’. Moscow, 1953.
Spravochnik-putevoditel’ po simfoniiam N. Ia. Miaskovskogo. Compiled by V. Vinogradov. Moscow, 1954.
N. Ia. Miaskovskii: Sobranie materialov, vols. 1–2, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1964.
Ikonnikov, A. Khudozhnik nashikh dnei: N. Ia. Miaskovskii. Moscow, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.