Boris TCHAIKOVSKY (1925-1996)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1969) [38:49]
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1959) [17:55]
Viktor Pikaizen (violin)
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin
Boris Tchaikovsky (piano) (Sonata)
rec. 1972 (Concerto), 1962 (Sonata). ADD, Stereo (Concerto), Mono (Sonata)
“... I consider him to be a genius…. I do think that one day people will come to know that two great Russian composers bore the same name…” Mstislav Rostropovich
Claims are often made for the merits of various composers whose music deserves a wider circulation. In my view Boris Tchaikovsky is one of the most worthy of attention. I recall the first time that I came across Boris Tchaikovsky’s music. It was about a decade ago at my local chamber music society when the visiting string quartet gave the audience a show of hands choice between a quartet by Boris Tchaikovsky or one by Alfred Schnittke. I think it was the String Quartet No.6 that they played.
Moscow-born Boris Tchaikovsky studied at the Moscow Conservatory in 1943/49. His list of teachers at the Conservatory include Nikolai Miaskovsky, Lev Oborin, Vissarion Shebalin and Dmitry Shostakovich. Despite the toxic atmosphere in Soviet Russia that prevailed for composers who didn’t pursue the party-line Tchaikovsky strongly followed his own path in composition and his influences are wide ranging. Although no mere imitator occasionally one can hear echoes of Shostakovich and probably slightly less from Miaskovsky and Shebalin but nothing too consistently obvious.
It seems that these two recordings were originally released on the Soviet State record label Melodiya on vinyl CM 04175-6. Both works were dedicated to and premičred by the Soviet born virtuoso violinist Viktor Pikaizen – a pupil of David Oistrakh - who is also the soloist here. The Violin Concerto was introduced in April 1970 at the Conservatory Great Hall, Moscow. Yanina-Irena Iossifovna Moshinskaya, the widow of Boris Tchaikovsky, stated that of all his works she admired the Violin Concerto most as it was significantly different from all his other scores. In addition she explained how in the score the composer wanted to communicate in music the life of his father Alexander Martynovich Tchaikovsky.

Composed in 1969 the Violin Concerto is an immense elegy cast in a colossal single movement with the violin playing virtually continuously throughout. Scored for solo violin, strings, brass and timpani it is in a lyrical style. I immediately noticed the use of brief, robustly accented and frequently recurring motifs. The various ideas undergo a process of transformation and growth that go on to blend with earlier material. For the majority of the score a number of undulating and mournfully lyrical themes for the violin appear on top of repetitive pulsating or eerily crying strings. At 18:54 the violin begins to take on a number of new ideas that increase in activity. The timpani is heard first at 19:19 heralding music of a frenetic and more anxious quality. Maintaining a high level of tension the brass is now used for the first time at 24:53. One wonders at the remarkable reserves of energy needed by Pikaizen. Angry exchanges begin to occur between the brass; strings and timpani. From 27:54 the violin, then the strings, embark on a series of anguished glissandi followed by an extended section for violin reviewing all the main themes. The brass launch the final section of the score at 32:43 with the violin progressively more doleful. Strikingly the notes become higher and higher until running out of energy to conclude the score. An assured and energetic soloist, Pikaizen manages throughout to maintain the inner power and tension that the Violin Concerto demands. Although lyrical in style the music just overflows with a remarkable tension and anxiety. The repetitive nature of the writing ensures a near hypnotic effect. The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Kirill Kondrashin make perfect partners. Another account of the Violin Concerto worthy of consideration was recorded in 1994by Viktor Pikaizen and the Odense Symphony Orchestra under Edward Serov in Odense on Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9946.
Composed a decade earlier in 1959, the two-movement Violin Sonata was premičred in December 1960 at the Gnessins Musical Institute Concert Hall, Moscow. Pikaizen with the composer on piano, both of whom played at the premičre, are the soloists on this recording. I was immediately stuck by the mournful and lyrical violin part and the emphasis given to the highly percussive piano part of the first movement marked Andante. The mood shifts to a quicker section with a long flowing violin line over an ominous and dance-like piano part. At 7:00-7:57 I enjoyed the violin playing pizzicato mainly over percussive single notes on the piano. Taking centre-stage in the second movement Allegro are syncopated rhythms for both violin and piano. In this movement we have far more variation in themes with several exhilarating passages. At 6:37 the main material from the opening movement is threaded into the final section before the music fades away to a whisper. The Pikaizen and Tchaikovsky are equal partners and command a wide range of mood and dynamics with every phrase steeped in energy and expressive power.
The recording venue in Moscow for each score is not mentioned in the liner notes however the sound quality is exemplary being vividly clear and well balanced. Equally fine are the informative booklet notes. This is a fascinating release of rarely heard music that when combined with listening concentration will provide real rewards. Boris Tchaikovsky is a composer of considerable worth and I will certainly be investigating more of his scores.
Viktor Pikaizen deserves great praise for his impressive playing. For those wishing to find out more about Boris Tchaikovsky there is an excellent website.
Michael Cookson

Steeped in energy and expressive power.