Boris TISHCHENKO (1939-2010)
Sonata No. 7 for piano with bells, Op. 85 (1982) [40:14]
Sonata No. 8 for piano, Op. 99 (1986) [29:38]
Nicolas Stavy (piano), Jean-Claude Gengembre (large bells, tubular bells and glockenspiel)
rec. December 2014, Église évangélique Saint-Marcel, Paris, France
Reviewed as a 24/44.1 download from
Pdf booklet included BIS BIS-2189 SACD [70:50]
The Russian composer Boris Tishchenko is fairly new to
me; I was much entertained by the Yablonsky
recording of his riotous Symphony No. 7 and the composer’s
own account of the seventh sonata, with Alexander Mikhailov on bells
(Melodiya). There are a number of Tishchenko recordings out there, among
them several from Northern Flowers, and what I’ve heard thus far
has really piqued my interest. Perhaps BIS, well-known for tackling
more peripheral repertoire, might consider a wider exploration of this
Leningrad-born Tishchenko was a composer, pianist and pedagogue who
seems to have avoided the ire of his Soviet masters. That said, his
1966 Requiem – based on Anna Akhmatova’s poetic
cycle of the same name – was a defiant gesture in those fraught
and frigid times. The work, kept under wraps, was finally premiered
23 years later. Tishchenko was also fortunate to have Galina Ustvolskaya
and Dmitri Shostakovich as his mentors; indeed, the latter’s influence
is unmistakable in much of what I’ve sampled to date.
Soloist and chamber musician Nicolas Stavy and composer-percussionist
Jean-Claude Gengembre are both new to me, but minutes into the seventh
sonata it’s clear they’re very much at home in this unusual
piece. The bravura writing is simply breathtaking; in the opening movement,
which vacillates between Andante and Allegro, Stavy
despatches Tishchenko’s manic runs and gruff clusters with aplomb.
Gengembre’s bells, which ring with startling clarity, are much
more refined – and better recorded – than Mikhailov’s.
As for Tishchenko the pianist he emphasises percussive weight rather
than colour or nuance. In thst context the somewhat rough Melodiya recording
adds a certain frisson to the Russians' music-making.
The central Lento is more introverted, and Stavy’s nicely
calibrated playing brings out the movement’s pensive, rather circular,
character. This really is a very approachable score, even in its heated
moments; the glockenspiel adds cooling cascades to the mix. There’s
nothing contrived about these juxtapositions, and there’s a powerful
sense of concentration at all times. Remarkably, Tishchenko's idiom
seems to embrace a collective musical memory that stretches, via Rachmaninov
and Tchaikovsky, all the way back to Beethoven. That’s not to
suggest he pillages from the past or indulges in shallow pastiche, for
what emerges here is both fresh and invigorating. There’s humour
too, notably in the Allegro’s quirky, dance-like fragments.
It’s been my pleasure to hear a clutch of fine pianists recently.
Among them are Javier
Perianes and Alexandre
Kantorow, both of whom manage to balance astonishing technique with
corresponding levels of individuality and insight. That’s so rare
in this age of the stellar talents – with recording contracts
to match – whose relentless pianism I find so dispiriting. Stavy
certainly isn’t one of the latter; his formidable control of rhythm
and his sophisticated touch, not to mention his strong feel for the
sonata’s bold colours and contours, is proof of that. His pedalling
– and there seems to be lot of it here – is very well managed,
The eighth sonata, less than half the length of its predecessor, is
just as involving. To begin with there’s an ease and openness
to the Allegro energico; Stavy has a keen ear for the work’s
phrases and recurring motifs, all of which leap off the page with great
conviction and style. Half-measures won’t do in the sonata’s
outer movements, that sandwich a gently rocking Andantino.
There’s a lovely dialogue in this central section, a blend of
dark and dainty, that I find most appealing.
As expected Stavy makes the most of the sonata’s fleeting moments;
also, he brings a wonderfully insouciance to the rollicking Allegromolto that speaks of real affection for this music. The finale’s
slapstick passages – bursts of which return, only to be crushed
by what sounds like a grand piano crashing to the ground – are
pure Mack Sennett. Factor in another fine BIS recording and Frédérick
Martin’s extremely detailed liner-notes and you have a very desirable
A thoroughly rewarding issue; let’s hope it’s the start
of a new Tishchenko project.