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Boris TCHAIKOVSKY (1925-1996)
Symphony No. 1 (1947) [32:17]
Suite: The Murmuring Forest (1953) [13:26]
Suite: After the Ball (1952) [16:54]
Volgograd Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Serov (Symphony)
Saratov Conservatory Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Ershov (Suites)
rec. Volgograd Central Concert Hall, Russia, 17-20 June 2006 (Symphony); Great Hall, Saratov Conservatoire, Russia, 15 January 2006 (Murmuring Forest); 13 June 2006 (After the Ball)
NAXOS 8.570195 [62:38]

 


Boris, apparently bears no relation to that more famous musical Tchaikovsky, which is just as well: they are both products and developers of the Russian tradition, but they are equally clearly products of their respective centuries. Boris Tchaikovsky’s teachers included Shostakovich, Myaskovsky, and Shebalin — auspicious mentorship that appears to have produced a significant compositional voice, if one until now little appreciated in the West.

One is likely to wonder, particularly regarding the Symphony no. 1 of 1947: how much does it resemble the work of Shostakovich? Features reminiscent of Shostakovich as well as other Soviet composers of the era are present: pungent brass intrusions, glass-edged string writing, spare and austere orchestration. Tchaikovsky is in this symphony, however, more conservative than Shostakovich or even Vainberg. There isn’t the same level of searing, driving intensity that - depending on how one interprets it - conveys the personal pain of oppression and alienation from one’s society. Tchaikovsky, rather, is interested in deploying the timbres and orchestrations he learned from his teachers for more formally musical argument. He is successful in doing this through the long-line; which is to say, he is a natural symphonist. While this work will not displace any of the twentieth-century “greats,” it makes for compelling listening and deserves to be played in Western concert halls.

The Volgograd Philharmonic, founded recently in 1987, has a lean sound that suits the symphony well. Its founder, Edward Serov, displays a sure control over the global architecture of the music, a virtue not always to be found in better-known conductors.

There is a change of personnel for the two orchestral suites, written to accompany radio dramas. The conservatory orchestra provides a richer sound. Though episodic, as one would expect of incidental music, it should appeal to fans of similar works by Sibelius. After the Ball actually commences with a very Sibelian waltz.

A page in the liner-notes features the Boris Tchaikovsky Society (see website). This group, of which the composer’s widow is a founder and many Russian musical luminaries are members, “organized” these recording. They note, “the Society welcomes everyone who admires the music of this great Russian composer. It will be delighted to answer any inquiries and to send scores.”

Naxos has also recorded the composer’s Piano Concerto (8.557727). I hope that, in their typically systematic way, they will commit his remaining three symphonies to disc.

Brian Burtt
 

 

 


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