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Boris TCHAIKOVSKY (1925-1996)
Chamber Symphony (1967) [20.11]
Signs of the Zodiac - cantata for soprano, harpsichord and strings (1974) [23.55]
Four Preludes for chamber orchestra (1984) [12.23]
Clarinet Concerto (1957) [12.29]
Margarita Miroshnikova (sop)
Grigory Korchmar (harpsichord)
Adil Feodorov (clarinet)
St Petersburg Chamber Orchestra/Edward Serov
rec. Capella Concert Hall, St Petersburg, 1985 (Symphony, Preludes, Concerto); 1978 (Zodiac) DDD


phone/fax +7 812 3872332
Boris Tchaikovsky Society:

Boris Alexandrovich Tchaikovsky was a Muscovite born into a cultured professional family sympathetic to and knowledgeable about the arts. He entered the Moscow Conservatoire in 1941 although the war almost immediately uprooted him to military service. He returned to the Conservatoire in 1944 where his composition teachers were Shebalin (do try his symphonies on Olympia), Miaskovsky and Shostakovich. His piano professor was Lev Oborin. He wrote four symphonies, a sinfonietta, a chamber symphony, concertos for violin, cello, clarinet and piano as well as six string quartets and music for more than thirty films.

The Chamber Symphony is in six named movements. The music has none of the accoutrements of Shostakovich. While there is a slight dissonance overwhelmingly it is sweet with the dissonance avoiding the caramel sickliness which can afflict the works of Boiko, Karayev and Silvestrov. The acidic edge can be experienced through the Sonata first movement; the sugary quality in the Interlude and Serenade with its harpsichord presence. The harpsichord continues into the March Tunes where the composer comes closest to Shostakovich - even so not very close. The Serenade seems deliberately evocative of a Mozartian cassation given a keen edge by a very 20th century disillusion. The piece finally resolves into a contented fade-down.

Seven years later comes Signs of the Zodiac - a four song cycle with soprano, harpsichord and string orchestra. The language is pretty much unchanged from the Chamber Symphony and the dissonance does not approach that to be found in some Lokshin or Khrennikov at least when the latter was in his avant-garde phase. The poems are printed in the booklet in both Cyrillic and English translation. After a lengthy reflective prelude we come to the settings of poems by Fyodor Tyutchev, Alexander Blok (whose On the Field of Kullikovo was brilliantly set by Yuri Shaporin as a cantata - warrants a CD issue of the Svetlanov recording), Marina Tsvetaeva and Nikolai Zabolotsky. These poems are preoccupied with death but the results, unlike those in Shostakovich, are not macabre - rather tender, surprisingly humane. Cross o'The Four Roads, the Tsvetaeva setting, is playful. There are some beautiful effects here (tr. 10). While far from being a style-mate this anthology would go well with Britten's Serenade and Les Illuminations. Masterful and extremely imaginative settings well sung and performed. Miroshnikova avoids the usual Slavonic vocal sins.

The 1984 Four Preludes are in a single track. The language is terser, more troubled; caustic with needy, acidic work for the string orchestra, trumpet and percussion. The work is an orchestra-only version of a suppressed song cycle setting four poems by the proscribed emigré poet Joseph Brodsky. The tinkle of percussion in the last section suggests the composer might well have been influenced by the final pages of Shostakovich's last symphony.

The Clarinet Concerto is the earliest work here. It is a lyrical piece that is Finzian in its dedication to song and singing. An elegiac first movement complete with singing line and idyllic pizzicato is followed by the stunningly virtuosic flight of a Vivace running without pause into the chattering Allegro which comes a close second to Vivaldi's Winter. The clarinet takes time out to return to an affectingly mellifluous cantabile which appears with a sparingly applied icy sprinkling of trumpet-led ‘Big Top’ stuff.
This disc was made in collaboration with the Boris Tchaikovsky Society. It merits the attention of serious collectors everywhere. Those who are collecting ASV's series of British light music concertos should not miss the Clarinet Concerto.

Rob Barnett

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