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Boris TISHCHENKO (1939-2010)
Complete Works for Piano - Volume 3
Piano Sonata No.6, Op.64 (1976) [27:45]
Piano Sonata No.7 with bells, Op. 85 (1982) [39:26]
Boris Tishchenko (piano)
Alexander Mikhailov (bells)
rec. 1977 (6) and 1983 (7), Saint Petersburg Recording Studio

Northern Flowers’s restoration of Boris Tishchenko’s piano sonatas reaches the third volume with this release. It brings back to the catalogue the composer’s own performances, as well as those of Dinara Mazitova, and does so with flair and precision.

The composer plays both the Sixth and Seventh sonatas. The Sixth, composed in 1976, was recorded the following year in a dry, chilly acoustic that, fortunately, both suits and accommodates the music. Saturnine and powerfully conceived, the rolling terse drama is laid out with a full complement of dissonance; resolute clusters populate the writing but in the central Presto furtive lines suggest a renewed sense of liveliness after the opening’s vehemence. Tishchenko fines his writing to pockets of expression—a huge contrast to the mass of the opening—though the music does get incrementally more urgent, once more assuming levels of abrasion and remorseless violence that are hard to contain. It seems wholly appropriate therefore that the finale, Shostakovich-like, should be a slow monody, quite austere in texture, leading to a visionary, calm chorale. The sonata’s journey is both exhausting and inspiring, a triumph of the human spirit, a triumph of musical will.

The companion sonata is by far the rarer, and by some way the more sonically unusual. This is not simply because it employs the sets of bells, played by Alexander Mikhailov, though it is a largely contributory fact. Again, an ominous Shostakovich-like caprice appears—in the opening movement this time—whilst the obsessively appearing dotted theme alerts the listener to the manic, almost psychotic nature of the music. This is the introduction to the long Lento-Allegro, a movement of some 26 minutes’ length, one of the most extraordinary in all Tishchenko’s keyboard music. Memorably and tautly melancholic, it involves the bells’ descending scale to evoke a sense of timeless grief and strenuous urging. Dancing tunes emerge, full of pithy wit—do not think Tishchenko incapable of compression of ideas—though this music keeps back-tracking on itself, ever uncertain, until it seems deliberately to court the shade of Liszt himself and specifically the Piano Sonata. A Gavotte theme that has been suggested then emerges on the bells to end the work with a cosmos-inducing vastness; all this vastness from such little bells. The Seventh is not a sonata for casual listening. Its use of bells may be alienating, as might be its rhetoric. But it repays close study and is played by the composer (and Mikhailov) with a visionary intensity.

As so often, Northern Flowers’ booklet is full of thoughtful writing. It is a label I admire for its commitment and thoughtfulness.

Jonathan Woolf



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