Saturday 19 September 2015

Nicolas Stavy gives formidable performances of piano sonatas by Boris Tishchenko on a new release from BIS

The Russian composer Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko (Бори́с Ива́нович Ти́щенко) (1939-2010) was born in Leningrad and studied at the Leningrad Musical College where he learnt composition under Galina Ustvolskaya and piano under Mikhelis. He later studied composition with Vadim Salmanov, Victor Voloshinov and Orest Evlakhov, and piano with L. Logovinski at the Leningrad Conservatory. After a postgraduate course with Dmitri Shostakovich he subsequently joined the faculty of the Leningrad Conservatory going on to become a professor there in 1986.

His compositions, very much influenced by music of his teachers Dmitri Shostakovich and Galina Ustvolskaya, include eight symphonies, two violin concertos, two cello concertos, a piano concerto, a harp concerto, ballets, a concerto for flute and piano, a concerto for violin and piano, six string quartets, two cello sonatas, ten piano sonatas, chamber music, a requiem, opera and vocal works as well as incidental music for theatre and film.

Some of Tishchenko’s music has been available on the Olympia, Northern Flowers and Naxos labels but now BIS Records  have released new recordings of his Piano Sonatas No’s 7 and 8 played by French pianist Nicolas Stavy


Tishchenko’s Piano Sonata No. 7, Op. 85, some forty minutes long, dates from 1982 and includes an important part for large bells, tubular bells and glockenspiel played here by Jean-Claude Gengembre.

Bells open the first movement, marked Andante - Allegro - Andante - Allegro – Andante, slowly increasing in volume and intensity. The piano soon enters with heavy chords that become discordant. There are more descending passages interspersed by heavy chords before the material is quietly developed. Soon the music picks up for a lighter Allegro section, the piano lines flowing over each other developing a lovely rich texture. There is a rapid motif reminiscent of Shostakovich in its wit and dissonance before tubular bells sound and the music is taken quickly forward, the pianist developing the theme to great effect. The textures, harmonies and development are thoroughly absorbing as the music builds to some dynamic chords before subtly slowing as the andante arrives again. Tishchenko further developments his material before repeated chords are picked up by bells and the skittish, dissonant theme of the allegro is resumed. The music again increases in dynamics as the music leads to the final andante with the insistent repeated chords of the coda with a large bell sounding and fading away.

The Lento is the longest movement, opening with a quiet, gentle flowing theme that is soon interrupted by a quizzical little motif that is repeated. Soon a more flowing theme moves over the quizzical motif, bringing a hesitancy to this melancholy music. Nicolas Stavy brings much fine subtlety and feeling to this music finding a withdrawn quality.  The theme takes slow steps forward as the music is developed and layered with some very fine dissonant harmonies building through some finely complex passages. The music builds slowly to a peak where the piano picks out an anguished theme with firm chords. This is a very telling moment. Tubular bells sound as the anguished chords are played. The music falls quieter and slower as the bells are gently heard again. There is a lovely moment when the hushed piano and bells move around each other before the piano alone continues more slowly and gently with its descending motif before leading into the third and final movement.

The Allegro arrives quietly and gently with a little rhythmic skipping theme. As it picks up the mood lightens, the music gaining in tempo. This light, though occasionally wistful theme develops through fiercer passages, moving through rhythmically bouncing, rather jazzy moments, before the lighter opening theme returns. This theme is again developed with some light delicate notes and richer heavier phrases, brilliantly handled by Stavy.  Eventually a beautifully atmospheric passage arrives before the music soon rushes off maniacally through more heavily textured passages. The glockenspiel is suddenly heard, delicately accompanying the piano in a quiet version of the opening theme as the coda arrives.

This is a remarkable sonata that is full of wonderful ideas. A colossal achievement.  Nicolas Stavy and Jean-Claude Gengembre give a formidable performance.

Though again in three movements the Piano Sonata No. 8, Op. 99, written in 1986, is quite a different work. A lively, free moving theme opens the Allegro energico before being subjected to Tishchenko’s fine development, with ever changing rhythms, the original theme re-appearing and being caught up in the developing ideas. The music gains in dynamics as it moves forward before the opening theme returns for the sudden end.

The Andantino opens quietly with chords interrupted by a simple little tune, continuing until a more flowing theme develops with the little tune continuing to be repeated. Slowly the theme expands with the tune being varied around it, developed into ever fascinating variations. Eventually the music suddenly takes off in a florid passage, with Tishchenko creating some wonderful harmonies and colours, finely revealed by Stavy. The music moves through more delicately constructed passages before a slow languid passage arrives where various threads of the music can be heard slowly woven and the tranquil coda is reached.

The vibrant Allegro molto seems to grow out of the second movement, rushing ahead with fast rising and falling scales over a steadier left hand. The way Tishchenko weaves each line is impressive, through some beautifully poised and fluid passages so finely caught by this pianist. Tishchenko’s free and wild use of dissonant harmonies achieves terrific results, particularly when juxtaposed with simple little melodic ideas. Part way through, a riotous passage arrives that throws in many apparently trivial ideas yet the overall result is spectacularly fine. The music quietens to a more refined melodic passage, yet concludes on a torrent of dissonance.

These sonatas reveal a composer who should be heard more frequently.  I do hope that this new release is only the first in a series from BIS. 

The recording from the Église évangélique Saint-Marcel, Paris, France reveals much detail and fine piano tone. There are excellent booklet notes.

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