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Boris TISHCHENKO (b. 1939)
Symphony No. 7. Op. 119 (1994)
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Yablonsky.
recorded in concert in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on 26th February 2002. DDD
NAXOS 8.557013 [52’42"]

This issue illustrates clearly how Naxos’s current strategy for releasing discs is working very well, and benefiting record collectors and music loving fans alike. Who would have thought, ten years ago, that a work like this would have been made available in excellent sound to a world-wide audience at budget price. Dmitry Yablonsky has recorded and issued previous discs in this series and most have been done with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. On the present disc, recorded live at a Moscow concert before a very quiet audience, we have the real McCoy in the Moscow Philharmonic (in excellent form) recorded in a very clear ambient acoustic.

Opinion has it that Boris Tishchenko is the heir to Shostakovich and since he was a favourite pupil of Shostakovich (how many favourite pupils he must have had!) there must be a link to the older composer. I do not believe Tishchenko shares much of Shostakovich’s sound world except in the sarcastic, jaunty themes as typified by the first movement. Tishchenko’s music is his own, quite distinctive, and well worth getting to know. It is tonal, reasonably tuneful and not at all hard work in listening. With all of the atonal, plink-plonk sounds around which purport to be music, as well as soupy film-like scores (a product of computer driven music boxes) it is very refreshing to come across a symphonic composer who appears to have something genuinely worthwhile to say.

The symphony starts with a jaunty little theme, which is extensively developed by the composer to encompass many moods on its way. About half way through this movement a passage for timpani is further developed for strings. Where the composer moves on the string themes are superseded by glissandi on the brass – very unusual and extremely powerful.

The second movement is an interlude, in name only, much like the second and fourth movements of Mahler’s 7th are interludes. This gives the whole symphony a cyclic feeling. The movement starts with a call to attention from brass and is followed by a passage for xylophone and piano. These shenanigans are brought to an abrupt conclusion by timpani and tom-toms. Then the movement climbs down and is brought to a sudden and violent conclusion.

The third movement is slow, and starts with a plaintive theme for oboe, accompanied by viola and trombone. The trombone rather gives the game away, as it soon starts to exhibit strange behaviour in the form of discordant slides which somewhat destroy the thematic development. This is comparable to the type of disruption first shown by the side drum in Nielsen’s 5th Symphony. The only minor disappointment with this movement is that the themes are not totally memorable - an opportunity missed. Perhaps, however it is my ears, rather than the composer at fault.

The fourth movement provides me with the lyrical atmosphere I found missing in the central movement. Although the themes are disrupted almost continually, there is a sense of repose which is highly engaging.

When we reach the finale, we are back in the skittish sound-world, with the themes being reinforced with pulsating percussion. The piccolo is very evident here which is vaguely reminiscent of Shostakovich, although the remainder of the orchestration is most unlike the older composer.

Throughout, the audience is absolutely silent apart from the odd quiet cough, and the typical rustle between movements. Applause at the conclusion is faded out fairly quickly by the engineers. From the details given by Naxos (i.e. a single recording day date), if they haven’t had any patching after the performance, would that we could experience the same commitment given by this Russian audience. This is totally in contrast to our designer coughers, plastic bag rustlers, to say nothing of constant chatting/mobile phones that the average audience has to put up with at the RFH or Barbican these days.

This is a marvellous release and should be snapped up by any music lover in search of a satisfying musical journey.

John Phillips

see also review by Colin Clarke


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