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Tishchenko VC2 NFPMA99146
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Boris Tishchenko (1939-2010)
Violin Concerto No 2 (Violin Symphony) op. 84 (1981)
Organ Inventions (3) op. 27 (1964)
Yuefu - on Chinese Folk Texts (3) op. 14 (1959)
Sergey Stadler (violin); Nina Oksentyan (organ)
Leningrad Chamber Choir
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Vassily Sinaisky; Valentin Nesterov
rec. 1975-1987, Leningrad

Leningrad-born composer Boris Tishchenko was hugely productive. There are eighteen symphonies, only eight of which are numbered. He left a Ninth (2009) unfinished. There seems no obvious rhyme or reason for why some have a number and some subsist with a named title alone. The titled ones are A French Symphony (1958, rev. 1993); Sinfonia Robusta (1970) (on Supraphon at one time); The Blockade Chronicle (1984) (recorded with Symphony No 1 on Northern Flowers; A Pushkin Symphony (1998) and a Dante-based Beatrice Symphony (Choreo-symphonic cycle, 1998–2005 in five symphonies). There are also eight concertos.

Galina Ustvolskaya was one his teachers at St Petersburg. His postgraduate studies were with another Leningrad luminary, Vadim Salmanov and also with Shostakovich - dedicatee of Tishchenko’s symphonies 3 and 5.

The "Violin Symphony in 4 Parts" (aka Violin Concerto No. 2) dates from 1981. A very difficult and challenging work, it is dedicated to his third wife, Irina Tishchenko-Donskaya and to the violinist Sergey Stadler. This recording (the only one I know of) has seen action well before Tishchenko recordings proliferated on Naxos and Northern Flowers. It was on Olympia OCD123 in 1981 all by itself - all 52 minutes of it. The First Concerto can be heard on another NF disc.

Stadler - too easily overlooked despite his excellent recordings of concertos by Stephan, Slonimsky, Arensky and Shostakovich (No. 1) - has the measure of the work; Vassili Sinaisky likewise. He is a greatly undervalued individual who, amongst much else, has recorded most of the Ivanovs symphonies for Melodiya, has conducted an incandescent Moeran Symphony at the Proms about a decade ago and the Miaskovsky Sixth live in Manchester.

Tishchenko’s “Violin Symphony” communicates as an enigmatic and highly virtuosic work perhaps with some affinities with the Pettersson Second Violin Concerto and George Rochberg’s Concerto. On the surface it is not the most superficially glamorous of concertos. Its strengths lie in Tishchenko’s studied integrity.  

The first movement - an Allegro moderato of almost quarter of an hour’s duration - opens slyly and with a cheeky grin. The soloist adds Paganini-like touches; not for the last time are there echoes of Danse Macabre. The brass call out at 09:00 with glorious writing for the horn bench caught with best foot unapologetically forward. At 10:22 the orchestral violins contribute romantically.

The second movement is a lengthy Presto with high velocity virtuosity. It is as if Walton and Shostakovich have lit an explosive fire under this. Deliciously hoarse horns provide a backdrop to a quicksilver flight; the fluttering is of some captive bird trying desperately to escape a birdcage. To give further savour, Tishchenko adds a Valenki boot dance with a sprinkling of cadenza-like writing. One is struck forcefully by a recording that is clear as a bell.

The ten-minute Allegro (in substance a humoresque) third resounds with Stravinskian impacts before a quarter-hour finale which opens with a tender Andante. This boasts some very moving writing for strings. I was reminded very subtly of the Berg Concerto. The music is constantly in song. Horns and darker brass rise up from the mist like heroic statues. There is an oboe-led epilogue which confers a cyclical sense to this big work which ends as a consolatory and healing salve. Ultimately it is more blessed than desolate.

The Inventions for solo organ are interesting and quirky. These three are seemingly the pick of a larger group of twelve. Invention 3 has a hypnotic insistence about it which for me recalls Riffraff by the English composer Giles Swayne - well worth seeking out. No. 6 is chaste while No. 7 is other-worldly. All three are easily digestible. Much the same can be said of the sequence of very short songs: Yuefu: three a cappella Choruses on Chinese folk texts. Intended as lyrical love messages, they were unearthed by Boris Vakhtin, a sinologist with an interest in ancient Chinese poetry. Here the original Chinese music has not survived. Tishchenko adds a most unexpected and rather Holstian-Howells style especially in In the springtime forest. The last one is more obliquely expressed but still very accessible. English translations are included in the helpfully loquacious booklet by Sergey Suslov.

Rob Barnett

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