Wednesday 1 February 2017

A welcome premiere recording of Boris Tishchenko’s Symphony No.8 from the St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra under Yuri Serov

The Russian composer Boris Tishchenko (1939-2010) was born in Leningrad and studied at the Leningrad Musical College where he learnt composition under Galina Ustvolskaya. He later studied composition with Vadim Salmanov, Victor Voloshinov and Orest Evlakhov 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 some of which have appeared on the Olympia and Northern Flowers labels.

Naxos  recorded Tishchenko’s Seventh Symphony with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dmitri Yablonsky in 2002. Now from Naxos is the world premiere recording of Symphony No.8 coupled with Tishchenko’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra and Three Songs, Op. 48 played by the St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra under Yuri Serov  with violinist Chingiz Osmanov , pianist Nikolai Mazhara  and mezzo-soprano Mila Shkirtil.


Tishchenko’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra, Op. 144 (2006) is in four movements and was dedicated to the composer’s friend Jacques Ioffe.

In the opening Fantasia the violin brings a plaintive theme which is responded to by the piano and slowly developed through some fine textures and harmonies, growing slowly more intense. The orchestra joins, adding a depth and intensity in the basses. As the movement progresses violin and piano become increasingly angry, developing some intensely complex textures and harmonies until reaching a rather manic pitch where violin and piano hurtle over slurred phrases and huge scales. They fall away to find a melancholic, quiet coda so very reminiscent of Shostakovich with the violin and piano adding little phrases to conclude.

The piano brings a rapid rhythmic motif in the Rondo to which the strings add a fast moving theme. The violin joins as the music moves quickly ahead before the piano duets with a double bass. The piano and violin take the theme, shared with the string orchestra. There is a moment for pizzicato violin over scurrying strings before the music moves ahead, with rich string textures, through a variety of ideas before the opening theme returns on violin and piano to bring about a decisive coda.

The orchestra alone brings a slow, heart rending Interlude with the basses adding a darkness and depth. The music has a tragic quality of stark beauty. There are downward drooping string phrases that add to the air of melancholy, moving freely through rising and falling passages, regaining the opening quietness.

Romance opens with arpeggios on the piano to which the violin adds a fine flowing melody. The orchestra gently joins the piano before alone taking the melody.  The violin re-joins as this lovely melody develops through passages of varying dynamics, finding much variety. When the piano re-joins it brings some rather dissonant phrases. There are passages of greater dynamics and passion before a section where the solo violin takes pizzicato phrases over low strings before rising again in passion. There is a terrific outpouring of invention before the music falls quieter as the violin and hushed orchestra lead ahead. The piano joins with little arpeggios before the violin and piano taking us alone again to a hushed coda.  

This is a work of tremendous substance and depth, given an excellent performance by both orchestra and soloists.

The Symphony No. 8, Op. 146 (2008) is one of the composer’s last completed works, written when he was seriously ill. It was written to be performed after Schubert’s Symphony No.8 ‘Unfinished’, following without a break.

In three movements the strings open the Andantino - Allegro pizzicato, soon joined by a clarinet in a plodding theme. The strings soon flow over pizzicato low strings. Other woodwind join before the melody expands across the orchestra rising in dynamics. Soon there is a jaunty little theme pointed up by a flute, then other woodwind alternate before taken by the orchestra as the music grows louder. There is a more flowing passage before the music finds greater drama, rising to a climax before dropping suddenly to flow more gently ahead to a sudden end.

Brass open the Andante soon alternating with the strings, slowly varying the theme that is spread across the orchestra as the melody develops. There is some very distinctive orchestration as well as some particularly lovely passages for oboe over pulsating strings. Later the lower strings and woodwind lead gently forward to the coda.

In the Allegro the strings bring a fast moving theme over which woodwind add little staccato phrases. Brass enter to add a more sinister touch before woodwind and strings take up the opening fast moving idea, growing in dynamics. Later basses bring a lumbering version of the theme, to which horns join, then other brass, rising to a climax with timpani and percussion in insistent phrases that are hammered out. The woodwind return with staccato phrases before weaving arabesques, the whole orchestra arriving to rush to a dramatic coda. 

Composer, Leonid Rezetdinov (b. 1961), a pupil of Tishchenko, made an arrangement in 2014 for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra of the Three Songs, Op. 48 to poems by Marina Tsvetayeva (1970), originally written with piano accompaniment. The texts chosen take the themes of love, loneliness and separation.

Percussion taps open rhythmically in No. 1. The Window before the orchestra joins in the spiky little theme. Mezzo- soprano, Mila Shkirtil joins bringing a quite lovely feel and tone.  A chime brings about a change to a slower, more flowing moment but almost immediately the percussion bring back the rhythmic theme that takes us to the conclusion.

A clarinet and shimmering strings open No. 2. The Leaves Have Fallen, soon joined by the mezzo in this anxious song that quickly gains in passion and drama with some particularly effective orchestration. There are some impressive, passionate outbursts from this very fine mezzo.

No. 3. The Mirror opens gently with a harp before the mezzo joins in this lovely little song. Soon the orchestra enters as the song develops lovely, deeply emotional phrases, so well captured by Shkirtil before a quite magical, hushed coda.

The St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra under Yuri Serov deliver first rate performances and are vividly recorded at the St. Petersburg Radio House Studio, Russia. There are excellent booklet notes from conductor Yuri Serov.

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