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Boris TISHCHENKO (1939–2010)
Symphony No. 4, op. 61 (1974) [94:55]
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky (narrator)
rec. concert performance, 17 Nov 1978, Grand Hall, Leningrad Philharmonic, Russia
St. Petersburg Musical Archive series
NORTHERN FLOWERS NFPMA99117/8 [40:38 + 54:17]

With the Olympia label long gone Northern Flowers remains in a salient position to more than fill the Soviet/ex-Soviet composer gap.

Tishchenko was born in St Petersburg (then Leningrad) and made his career there. It is no surprise to find him figuring in Northern Flowers' "St. Petersburg Musical Archive" series. He studied in the city, coming at various times within the teaching ambit of Galina Ustvolskaya and Vadim Salmanov. Postgraduate studies were pursued with Shostakovich (1962-1965). He was a prolific composer with many symphonies to his name and some of these are outside the numbered rank. To these can be added "two violin concertos, two cello concertos, a piano concerto, five string quartets, two cello sonatas, ten piano sonatas, a requiem, chamber and vocal works, the opera The Stolen Sun, the operetta A Cockroach, three ballets The Twelve, Fly-bee and Yaroslavna (The Eclipse), and incidental music for theatre and film."

Apart from Tishchenko's eight numbered symphonies there are the following works: French Symphony (1958); Pushkin Symphony (1967); Sinfonia Robusta (1970), Blockade Chronicle Symphony (1984) and his five part Dante Symphony (1997-2005). As for the numbered symphonies these are 1 (1961); 2. Marina for chorus and orchestra (1964); 3 (1967); 4 for narrator and orchestra (1974); 5 (1976); 6 for soprano, contralto and orchestra (1988); 7 (1994) and 8 (2008).

The Fourth Symphony is in five movements each dubbed a symphony in its own right: 1. Sinfonia di forza; 2. Sinfonia di rabbia; 3. Sinfonia di tristezza; 4. Sinfonia di crudelta; 5. Sinfonia di risorgimento e tenerezza.

The Sinfonia di forza is built from protest and grimness with dissonant and acidic strings to the fore. It 'speaks' as a staccato series of incidents rather than a legato flow of ideas. Its uniformity of mood is thoughtful and sour, 'relieved' only by severe clangour and merciless severity. The Sinfonia di rabbia is a rage of side-drums in jungle profusion, with growling and slow-flailing brass, gangling jagged components and violent outbursts. Peace of a sort comes in malcontent moments (14:15) concluded by a grippingly violent end. The Sinfonia di tristezza makes room for clarinet writing that is not so much sorrowful as hesitant but always under control. Tenderness does on occasion sing out from the strings (10.00) on wings that flow freely and stratospherically. Horn writing reminiscent of that in Robert Simpson's Fifth Symphony later entwines with the violins. The sounds towards the end of this part of the Symphony recall the terseness of the sounds in Sibelius’ Symphony 4. Finally the movement ends in the very groaning grief the symphony rejected earlier. From this movement and during the next two audience coughing becomes very prominent not that I found this distracting from the musical argument but some may. The Sinfonia di crudelta introduces an orator who sonorously and sometimes wildly intones lines from Turgenev's Asya. There's also a pistol shot. The music now takes on a pummelling belligerence off-set a little by sumptuous string chorale writing constantly melting off into other directions (5:18, 13.51). A devilish violin solo comes close to Shostakovich. After pages of kaleidoscopic orchestration redolent of Shostakovich’s Symphony 15 we morph into a glum peroration and a murmur that carries over into the fifth movement: Sinfonia di risorgimento e tenerezza (resurgence and tenderness) carries the sense of a tide flowing in, clearing away harshness and supplanting it with fulfilment and happiness. The strings ring out in a silvery chorale and a starry processional that sings without drawing breath. Giant Easter bells ring out and the monumentality is underscored by the organ (8.30). A breath is taken by a flute pastorale - rather Nielsen-like in his more Palladian moments. This aspect is picked up and heated by the strings again high in their register. The music aspires with long-sustained, breath-defying lung power. There's a touch of 1940s Vaughan Williams here. The music becomes one extended, slow beatitude which is also voiced by the celesta. There is applause at the end.

The notes are by Andrei Denisov translated by Sergey Suslov.

An impressive symphony performed by skilled and enthusiastic musicians heard live in a more than decent recording. It's music that just occasionally finds kindred feeling with Pettersson's Ninth Symphony. Dourness, striving, struggle and the achievement of serenity and happiness are all reflected in this epic five-part symphony.

Rob Barnett



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