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Boris TISHCHENKO (b. 1939)
Symphony No. 7, Op. 119 (1994).
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Yablonsky.
Live rec. Grand Hall, Moscow Conservatory on February 26th, 2002. DDD
NAXOS 8.557013 [52’42]

This is a live performance of an important piece. Boris Tishchenko’s Seventh Symphony, here receiving its world première recording, is a demanding work, and not only technically. Post-Shostakovich juxtapositions of diverse musics take both listener and performer on a helter-skelter ride and sometimes it does actually sound as if you’re at the carnival! Tishchenko, famously, studied with Shostakovich at the Leningrad Conservatory, where he is now a Professor, from 1962-65, having previously been under Galina Ustvolskaya at the Leningrad Musical College (1954-55). The over-riding influence is indeed Shostakovich, although some Prokofiev is also occasionally discernible (around 1’50 in the fourth movement, for example). What is for sure is that Tishchenko’s compositional confidence is mightily impressive, and that he is not a man to pull his punches.

The first movement establishes a music of juxtapositions. A jovial clarinet, itself a retort to the muted trumpet of the very opening, gives out an appealing dance, the rhythmic aspect emphasised by pizzicato strings. Jazz overtones appear from time to time, as do blatantly populist passages (e.g. around 7’15). Soviet jazz is a characteristic of the second movement, really quite riotous in its irreverent cheek - I defy you not to smile. The climax of these antics comes with a vamp-till-ready piano against a plain silly xylophone (1’44ff) - all of this moves towards an essentially good-natured anarchy.

Necessary contrast comes in the form of the third movement (no tempo indications are given for any of the movements). Woodwind writing is strikingly beautiful, right from the initial, snaky oboe solo. The emotive language is slightly distanced (à la Neo-Classical Stravinsky), giving Tishchenko the opportunity for an extended and gradual build-up; this movement lasts 11’08. A bassoon-dominated passage around the seven-minute mark is notably effective, as is the haunting close, with the call of a clarinet answered by muted horns.

The ghostly, disembodied, intermittently dancing fourth movement leads to the piping piccolo of the finale, a movement with a real sense of rhythmic play. Tishchenko presents a whirligig of commotion, which along with simpler passages nevertheless similarly imbued with a love of life itself, leads to positively manic percussion towards the end.

It is not every day in my reviewing work that I hear a piece that I immediately want to hear again, but this is one. The Moscow Philharmonic plays its heart out for Yablonsky, who himself seems at one with the composer. Sometimes, exploration of the fringe repertoire comes up trumps, and this is one such occasion. At super-budget price, it seems almost criminal not to investigate …

Naxos’ chosen cover picture is very effective indeed, an ‘Urban Landscape’ brought to life by almost-but-not-quite vibrant colours (by Ilya Ivanovich Mashkov, 1901-1944). Alas, Richard Whitehouse’s notes are hard going, and irritating to boot. There’s only a limited amount of times I can take ‘this happens, then this happens, then that happens before the second thing that happened, happens again’.

Other Tishchenko discs of note include a Fifth Symphony by the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra under Gennadi Rozhdestvensky on Melodyia MCD213 and Olympia discs of the Second Violin Concerto (OCD123) and the First and Fourth String Quartets (OCD547). An intriguingly titled ‘Piano Sonata with Bells’ appears on an Albany disc (TROY096); the Fifth Piano Sonata is on TROY135. A work list up to Op. 127 appears at

Colin Clarke

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