Tischenko is a convinced symphonist. Even when he writes a concerto
– such as the second violin concerto, an exceptionally fine work
- he refers to it as a ‘violin symphony’. It’s no surprise that
his symphonic ventures, given his literary depth, have included
a French Symphony (after Anatole France) nor that his immersion
in Dante’s The Divine Comedy should have led to successive
symphonies on the theme. The First Dante Symphony was written
in 1997 and the Fifth in 2005. Along the way the schema is enriched
by taking in other works by Dante.
have here the first two symphonies of the symphonic cycle called
Beatrice – Choreo-symphonic cycle. The
First is a prologue outlining Dante’s journey to the next world;
The Second takes him to the Inferno as incidentally does the
Third. The Fourth concerns itself with Purgatory and the Fifth
reaches the uplands, as it were, of Paradise.
Tischenko has responded
to the esoteric and hidden textual meanings of The Divine
Comedy by embedding some musical codification of his own.
Much of this relates to Beatrice but to other characters as
well, to whom Tischenko has assigned specific numerical analogues.
Complex though this sounds, it need not especially detain the
listener who will respond on other grounds. The First Symphony,
a one-movement twenty-eight minute work is biographical and
presents both Dante and Beatrice as children, before passing
onto her death and Dante’s subsequent banishment. What we hear
on this disc is the world premiere performance.
The quietude of
the opening passages summons up the early life well, with Tischenko
ensuring that the orchestration remains light and malleable.
But soon scurrying figures accelerate matters biographical.
The wind writing turns acidic and there’s an insistent and satiric
Shostakovich-derived venom to the writing as well as melancholia
in the undulating violin line. The sense of desolation is palpable.
A lower brass interlude moves onwards to percussive agitato,
full of ferment; not gracious, but terse and explosive. There
are plenty of coughs in this live performance of a work which
sits squarely in the post-Shostakovich canon, vague though that
may be. I’ve amended the subtitle from ‘Among the Live’ to ‘Among
The Second Symphony,
a two part work, is also heard in its first ever performance.
It opens tonally in sonata form with a kind of ‘forest dark’
ambience. From around seven minutes a solo trumpet and percussion
statements begin to start unsettling and destabilising the writing.
Soon we are in full ‘wind machine cries’ territory with a Hellish
vortex not far behind, evoking the first three circles of Hell.
It’s pictorial writing, filmic, stark and implacable. The brass
writing is angular and there are satiric lower brass dialogues;
Devilish. The second part reprises the wind cries for the unfortunates
in the fourth circle. Again the writing is unremittingly gaunt
and terse, martial and unyielding. There’s something almost
masochistic about it all, as well as repetitive. To those unsympathetic
such remorseless gloom will be wearying. The symphony ends uneasily
and gravely, as one would expect.
It’s best, critically
speaking, to hear the complete cycle of five symphonies before
leaping to judgement. The First two don’t seek to ingratiate
themselves especially. The first, given the early biographical
focus, is the more clement, and reflective. But we are soon
swept up into the inescapable frenzy and harrowing drama of
the Second Symphony. One might also wonder whether there is
another biography underlying this one - a harrowing of the Soviet
soil, perhaps - that might inform or be reflective of Dante’s
elemental poetic loss.