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Boris TISCHENKO (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-soprano), Chingiz Osmanov (violin), Nikolai Mazhara (piano)
St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra/Yuri Serov
rec. St. Petersburg Radio House Studio, Russia, 15-19 June 2015
World première recordings (songs, symphony)
NAXOS 8.573343 [59:51]

I have more than just a soft spot for Naxos as I’ve found myself writing many times before; rather than endlessly ploughing the core repertoire field they enable music lovers to discover music they might never otherwise come across. While Boris Tishchenko may have been a great friend of Shostakovich he is still a name that many will not have heard of so discs such as this do a great service and with this one we even have a world premiere recording of his eighth symphony written two years before his death in 2010.

His Concerto for violin, piano and string orchestra is not the kind of work one can use as background music but one that requires close attention which will reveal its multiple layers and deep emotional undertones. Its spiky opening movement in particular needs to be listened to closely and which will continue to give with each successive hearing. This movement is the most contemporary in its sound world with violin and piano acting as a duo, at times as if oblivious to the fact that there is an orchestra playing too, while at others becoming very much integrated within it.

The Rondo in complete contrast is a jaunty, amusing, dancing, fun piece in which the piano is prepared in some way to deaden the notes (how would this work in concert? Though I think it is only a single key). Both violin and piano have space to give solos and show their player’s individual talents which are many. Then we have another marked contrast in the form of the third movement Interlude that is given to the string orchestra alone. This contemplative movement is deeply emotional in content in which the instruments seem to be winding down in concentric circles until the music fades out and is immediately replaced with the two soloists introducing the final movement subtitled Romance dominated by a really beautiful and affecting tune based on a popular Russian romantic song. This movement too eventually fades away but this time after rising higher and higher like smoke into the atmosphere.

Tishchenko’s Symphony no.8 pays homage to Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony no.8 in B minor, writes booklet compiler and the disc’s conductor Yuri Serov, and is intended to be played immediately after the end of Schubert’s work. Musicians will no doubt understand and appreciate the connection while as a mere listener I have to confess I don’t but I can and did enjoy it mightily. The symphony delivers on every level; it has interest throughout with great tunes, lyricism, excitement, and the orchestra is used to the full. This is the symphony’s first ever release on disc though it appeared on a YouTube recording in August 2016 with an unnamed orchestra conducted by Alim Schakhmametyev (how does this happen I wonder?). I feel compelled to explore his other seven symphonies without delay, revisiting the only one of them I have, a vinyl disc of his third. Opening with a rather solemn tune it soon takes on a more upbeat mood with a lively section at times punctuated by rather threatening sounding brass until it wins out and takes over momentarily but the irrepressible nature of the breezy strings returns to close the movement. The second movement is extremely lyrical with a flowing tune that is taken up by an oboe (Schubert’s symphony has a clarinet in its central section) and is eminently satisfying in every way. Schubert unfortunately never got further than two movements whereas Tishchenko completed his with another jauntily buoyant one full of syncopation from various sections of the orchestra in turn reaching a blazing climax which seems to have worn the orchestra down; not so as egged on by low woodwind the strings gradually return to close the symphony.

Both Tishchenko’s friend and mentor Shostakovich and Sofia Gubaidulina set poems by Marina Tsevtayeva to music but in 1970 Tishchenko set three of her poems 3 years before Shostakovich set six. This recording of the orchestration by Tishchenko’s pupil Leonid Rezetdinov is its world premiere recording. It is hard to imagine anyone setting these three poems more successfully since they are perfect in every way; superbly atmospheric, wonderfully tuneful and giving full weight to the words. The first owes a debt to Shostakovich inasmuch that it is saturated by a bitter and witty irony which Shostakovich was so famous for. The second is disturbed in nature, the singer being pulled this way and unable to settle as she agonises over the death of her lover. The final one is more overly romantic in style with a harp accompanying the singer against gentle strings. Mila Shkirtil sings them exceptionally beautifully with the words coming across so clearly they can easily be followed even by a non Russian speaker. The whole disc is a joy from start to finish and showcases Tishchenko’s broad range of styles and I hope it whets many appetites for further exploration of this huge name in Russian and Soviet music who justifyingly inherited Shostakovich’s mantle as Russia’s greatest symphonist after his teacher’s death in 1975. The orchestra plays brilliantly and Yuri Serov gets the best from the St Petersburg band. Both soloists in the concerto make a convincing case for the work which takes some getting used to but which will win the listener over eventually, leaving them with several possible earworms to contend with.

Steve Arloff

Previous review: Rob Barnett



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