and God move in mysterious ways. Indeed, the ink of my recent
reviews of discs of Tchaikovsky’s music (Hyperion CDA 67413
– 10/2004 and Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9918 – 12/2004) is hardly
dry before here comes another one from another source. And,
what’s more, we are offered three substantial works.
Sebastopol Symphony is a large-scale single movement
of considerable substance. Sebastopol, an important harbour
on the Black Sea (now in Ukraine), endured two tragic periods,
first in 1855 when it was besieged by English and French armies
during the Crimean War and then in 1942 when it was occupied
by German troops. The music sets out to evoke these and other
aspects of Sebastopol’s history, without ever being really programmatic.
This is a quite different piece of music than, say, Shostakovich’s
so-called Leningrad Symphony. As is usual in Tchaikovsky’s music,
this single movement structure falls into several sections travelling
back and forth in time. This serves to make clear that Sebastopol
was an important harbour through the recurrent “sea music” that
opens the piece and keeps re-appearing, albeit with variations.
The various sections are in turn lyrical and dramatic, sunny
and dark-hued, nostalgic and realistic. The music is clearly
from the composer’s full maturity and displays a really remarkable
orchestral flair. It is characterised by clear orchestration
and lighter textures than, say, the music of Shostakovich while
avoiding sounding “light-ish” or overtly Neo-classical. The
Sebastopol Symphony is a major achievement and
a most welcome addition to the catalogue.
number of pieces by Tchaikovsky are structured as suites made
up of short episodes, seemingly unrelated. This can be heard
in the Chamber Symphony and the Sinfonietta
for Strings. This is evident too in Music for
Orchestra, his penultimate orchestral score. In this
piece the composer uses variation technique on a number of themes,
so that the music acquires greater coherence than that of the
Chamber Symphony, for example. The music is superbly
scored, and one is constantly taken by surprise by unexpected,
arresting instrumental combinations. Tchaikovsky’s fondness
for the horn section is also clearly to be heard.
tone poem The Wind of Siberia was dedicated to
Vladimir Fedoseyev, who often championed Tchaikovsky’s music.
Again, the music is not overtly picturesque or programmatic,
although it vividly evokes the cold colours of the north through
nicely judged orchestral touches. The music also has its dark
side, for Tchaikovsky does not forget that Siberia also served
as a prison for political and criminal exiles. The scoring includes
a somewhat unusual wind section (two flutes, two alto flutes,
two clarinets, two alto clarinets, four trumpets and four trombones)
and a fairly large percussion complement featuring six timpani.
Another impressive score.
to these three discs, I have come to regard Boris Tchaikovsky
as a major, unjustly neglected composer whose music has a highly
personal ring, sometimes looking back to that of his teacher
Shostakovich, but nevertheless managing to keep his potentially
all-pervasive influence at bay.
recordings from the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra’s archives
were made in the 1980s and are remarkably fine. Fedoseyev clearly
believes in the music and conducts vital readings of these often
impressive scores that definitely deserve wider currency. I
certainly encourage Chandos to make further exploration into
orchestra’s archives and into those of the Boris Tchaikovsky
Society. It would be nice if a fine performance of the Symphony
with harp (Tchaikovsky’s last orchestral score) and
of the Cello Concerto (highly praised by none other than Rostropovich)
could make their way onto disc.
CD is well worth exploring. It sheds interesting light on a
composer from the post-Shostakovich generation whose personal,
well-crafted and never indifferent music has been widely overlooked.