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Tishchenko twelve NFPMA99149 RB
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Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko (1939-2010)
The Twelve (complete ballet) op 25 (1963)
Shostakovich Variarions for orchestra op 143 (2005)
St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Philharmonic Orchestra/Pavel Bubelnikov, Alexander Titov
State Estonian Symphony Orchestra/Peeter Lilje
rec. 1976-2006, Leningrad

The major work here - a ballet lasting 48 minutes - is presented in a composite recording with various conductors and orchestras. The majority of the ballet is played by the St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Pavel Bubelnikov. It’s an earlyish work by Tishchenko, written when he was 26 for Leonid Yakobson (1904-1975). The character and scenario of this work underwent changes between composer and choreographer but to us it’s the music that matters.

Blok’s poetry was set by Shostakovich, Weinberg, Salmanov, Arthur Lourié and Georgy Sviridov. The poem "The Twelve” found its origins in the Revolution. In 1918 we witness the march of twelve Bolshevik soldiers through the snowy streets of revolutionary Petrograd. In the soldiers Blok finds awkward parallels with the Twelve Apostles of Christ.

It’s written in a resolutely and unrepentantly tangy style and is heard here in nine tracks some of which include multiple panels. ‘Black Night, White Snow’ is depicted as if the work of Manichaean furies. There’s a touch here of Vaughan Williams’ Fourth and Mennin’s Third Symphony. This loses impetus in ‘Wind swirls and clean white snow’ with dreamily intoned woodwind. It doesn’t last. Soon they bubble and caper like miscreant devils. Raspberries are blurted and disillusion and cheek remain, punctuated by the occasional Stravinskian ‘chirrup’. ‘The reckless driver’ movement seems to depict a squelchy then swaggering off-key brass march with big boots tramping. There’s even an accordion in the mix. Over the next few movements disillusion surfaces with Prokofiev-like fanfares. The harp puts in a gentle appearance. A movement that terms itself ‘Boredom most boring, deadly’ has landmarks in the shape of a theme with rocking horns, sour, sharp and dissolute clarinet notes. There is momentary contentment there. Chaffing woodwind grump and yawp with pecking brass. Great tectonic plates seem to heave and grind. The next track (8) refers to ‘The bourgeois standing at the crossroads’ and then the blizzard gains in fury and corvids caw in an empty victory. This is music of great character, hewn from obstinate material. The last panel refers to itself as ‘wrapped in wild snow and ahead of them (the Bolshevik Twelve) goes Jesus Christ’. This forms a gentle and meditatively tense finale with an organ pedal note that delivers a most uncharacteristically smooth ending.

The nine-minute Variations on Three Themes by Shostakovich was written thirty years after the elder composer’s death (forty years after the ballet) and is heard here in a single track. The music sinuously unwinds, bereft of violence. In its stead there’s a gentle but determined twisting of the tension. This rises to a sour benediction from the trumpet and sonnets of raw nobility from the brass. There is an earnest hymnal element certainly but you can forget about any shade of Soviet festivities.

The two works are supported by an uncredited liner-note which, in unshowy fashion, underpins these two works from opposite ends of Tishchenko’s career.

Northern Flowers, as a label, has been a diligent angel to Tishchenko’s legacy. In this disc its work continues … to the enrichment of our aural horizons.

Rob Barnett

Previous review: Néstor Castiglione

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