Two symphonies separated by 23 years and both written during Russia's
Tischenko, a pupil of Ustvolskaya - hear
her symphonies on Megadisc - is very much a Leningrad/St Petersburg
person and still teaches in the city's conservatory. He studied
composition there with Salmanov and then after graduation
with Shostakovich. Tischenko dedicated his own symphonies
3 and 5 to Shostakovich.
The symphony as a form is critical to
Tischenko's ouput. The notes tell us that there are seven
numbered symphonies plus the French Symphony (after
Anatole France), The Blockade Chronicle Symphony and
'the majestic cycle of Dante Symphonies.'. His second violin
concerto is termed a 'violin symphony'.
The First Symphony is in five movements
- as is his sixth - and dates from his student years. The
work begins in an enchanted evocation of northern nights.
It gradually aggregates tension to the point of unbearable
strain. In doing so it recalls the music for the Teuton Knights
in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. The music then relaxes
back into a sort of tense serenity underpinned by gong strokes.
There is an almost Vaughan Williams- or Copland- like sense
of ecstasy at the end of the movement. After that Moderato
comes a similarly lengthy Andante. This develops
the aurora of ecstasy again with a strained intensity bearing
some spiritual relationship to Eduard Tubin's Sixth Symphony.
It is macabre and tragic all at once. The braying trumpets
at 7:40 leave us in no doubt that this music is steeped in
acidic grief. A softened sentimental element comes with a
soprano vocalise at 8:24. The macabre returns for the feral
blast of the short Presto with its vituperative drum-kit
cannonade. The succeeding Allegretto offers some slight
relaxation - but not much. The finale brings together a sense
of awful apocalypse and trenchant triumph. This is expressed
with an awesome whirlwind of climactic emphasis.
The recording is from the 1970s and suffers
some mild blasting distortion at the very loudest climaxes.
The occasional coughs and splutters from
the audience do nothing to detract from the fine effect of
The Blockade Chronicle Symphony
shows the composer at full maturity with a massively
inventive palette of sounds. This time the armoury includes
some of the chittering and ululation expected from scores
by Varèse, Penderecki and Ligeti. The music tracks through
devastation as it is happening: falling buildings, wailing
salvos of assault-rockets, the sounds of haunted desolation.
Redemptive elements include hints of the sort of orison-hymnal
drawn from Panufnik and an exhausted benediction. Strangely
downward-sliding shrieks and soloistic instrumental voices
reach in despair out of the orchestral skein. The music rises
to further protest and then sinks again at 22.00. A waltz
ostinato emerges expressively at 24:00 rather as it does in
the final movement of Tischenko 6. The brass call out in extraordinarily
triumphant music at 27:50. The scorch and inbuilt harshness
of the brass writing sounds a little like Janáček. Tischenko
sustains the triumph with extraordinary tenacity across page
after page but then allows this to end and in saunters that
waltz again. As Denisov writes, that waltz embodies the past
'living in our memory and never surrendering to oblivion'.
Once again this is a concert performance
and while distortion is never an issue there is coughing and
shuffling to put up with. Personally I have no problem with
such noises in the face of such red-blooded music-making.
As he does with the Northern Flowers recording
of Tischenko 5 Andrey Denisov provides excellent notes. There
he reveals a fine accessibly communicative gift without resorting
to musicological obfuscation.