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Boris TISHCHENKO (1939-2010)
Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra (2006) [33:14]
Symphony No. 8 (2008) [18:59]
Three Songs to Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva (version for chamber orchestra by Leonid Rezetdinov) (1970/2014) [7:38]
Mila Shkirtil (mezzo); Chingiz Osmanov (violin); Nikolai Mazhara (piano)
St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra/Yuri Serov
rec. St Petersburg Radio House Studio, Russia, 15-19 June 2015. DDD
NAXOS 8.573343 [59:51]

Between Northern Flowers and Naxos the representation of the Russian composer Boris Tishchenko has come along by leaps and bounds. Most of the work has been done by Northern Flowers but the Naxos recording of the Seventh Symphony should not escape notice (review). Naxos have done likewise for Boris Tchaikovsky and Kara Karayev.

This admirably recorded collection fills gaps in the Tishchenko coverage. Apart from the three songs we are talking about late works from the 2000s. The Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra is in four substantial movements. The Fantasia has the solo violin speaking with the piano in hesitant stuttered sentences. The effect is tensely pregnant with flecks of ideas floating high into an austere world in which wispy violin phrases rise like fumes. Things become more hectic as the movement progresses and the music boils and seethes. The Rondo begins with stony finger-tapping piano figuration. It contrasts with a long, dry, populist violin dance, the melody of which is redolent of the long melody in Shostakovich's Leningrad. The music is catchy, strong on irresistible energy, yet never luxurious. The following Interlude entails a groaning spiral of reflection and circling acidic writing for the orchestral violins. It's a sort of analogue for the image of a wax effigy melting in the heat of contemplation. The final Romance opens in a strangely nostalgic duet for solo violin and piano. Over a typically Russian sentimental melody the solo violin delivers a quiet, screeching motif serving as an ostinato until the instrument takes over the melody. At 7:10 the pearly sound of the piano swirls away until the music sings its way to silence, higher and higher and somehow inconclusive.

The Eighth Symphony is one of the composer's last completed works. It was written to be performed immediately after Schubert’s Unfinished to which it makes reference. Tishchenko's opening Andantino has the same tautly strung, quiescent mystery and makes a strange descant to the Schubert original. The tonality adopted slides into the 20th century. The close-coupled Allegro makes for a chilly miniature minuet with leering raspberries being blown at one moment and at others tender yielding phrases from the violins. The middle Andante boasts gentle zephyr-phrases from the flute and an affably cool melody carried by the French horn. The Allegro finale is an inexhaustibly energised spinning dance which towards the close adopts a Nyman-style rasping ostinato. Industrious ostinato activity is the business of this finale which ends in an imperial blast.

The three Tsvetaeva songs make good capital out of anxiety, protest and urgency. The jaunty The Window looks forward to the fantastical clockwork of Shostakovich's final symphony. Mila Shkirtil finds the wit and poignancy of these songs. The texts are to be found in the insert in both transliterated Russian and English translation.

These handsome-sounding premiere recordings have been produced by the conductor Yuri Serov who also wrote the liner-notes.

This stands as evidence that Tishchenko's powers to enthral continued undimmed even in what turned out to be his last years.

Rob Barnett



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