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8.557013 - TISHCHENKO, B.I.: Symphony No. 7 (Moscow Philharmonic, Yablonsky)
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Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko (b.1939): Symphony No. 7

Often considered the direct heir to the legacy of Shostakovich, Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko was born in Leningrad on 23rd March 1939. Studies with Galina Ustvolskaya, a one-time pupil of Shostakovich, and at the Leningrad Conservatory led to his taking a postgraduate course with Shostakovich during the years 1962 to 1965. Active as a pianist, both as a soloist and in chamber music, he has taught at the Leningrad - now once more the St Petersburg - Conservatory since 1965, becoming a professor there in 1986.

With a list of some 130 works to his credit, Tishchenko is a prolific composer who has contributed to all the major genres. Folk and ethnic music have both played their part in his thinking, together with composers as diverse as Monteverdi and Mahler, in an idiom whose undogmatic approach to tonal thinking  won him the approval of Shostakovich early in his career. This is particularly evident in the Third of his eleven symphonic works (1966), which the older composer singled out for the “richness of its emotions, its clarity of thought and its structural logic”, and the First Cello Concerto, written for Rostropovich in 1963 and re-orchestrated by Shostakovich for more conventional forces in 1969. Such an empathy reached its apogee in the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, composed before and after Shostakovich’s death in 1975, where an avowedly public symphonism is pursued in impressively large-scale terms.

After these Tishchenko turned more to chamber and instrumental music (he has composed ten piano sonatas and five string quartets), and choral works, only returning to orchestral symphonic writing with his Seventh Symphony (1994). The work consists of five movements, a restrained slow movement framed by what might be termed a scherzo and intermezzo, and framed in their turn by substantial outer movements which exhibit a free though resourceful approach to symphonic form, such as can be found in Shostakovich’s later symphonies and string quartets.

The first movement of the symphony begins with a fragment on muted trumpet, alternating with clarinet over pizzicato strings, before violins introduce a more wistful idea. These are heard in varied combinations before the clarinet idea gravitates to lower strings, then timpani, over which strings and bassoons pursue a hesitant discussion. Violins and upper woodwind, then brass enter as the mood grows more animated, arriving at a lively, rather sardonic dance, then a vigorous fugato dominated by trombone slides. The dance recommences, culminating in a brief climax based on the violins’ wistful idea, which continues as the movement moves back to its beginning, and a decidedly equivocal conclusion.

The second movement opens with a call to attention from brass, and a vigorous dance to which piano and xylophone make an unexpected but characterful contribution. The music builds to a riotous climax, in which the dance is angrily taken apart by timpani and tom-toms. It then continues with somewhat desperate jollity, passing through a passage of intensive string polyphony before regaining its initial focus. A skittering ascending gesture from piano, and the movement is brutally curtailed.

A plaintive oboe melody, accompanied by viola but gently offset by muted trombone, begins the third movement. Upper woodwind gradually coalesce into plangent discords, then into a series of repeated gestures in combination with trumpets and horns. The initial melody returns low in the bassoons, joined by other woodwind in a passage of increasingly dissonant polyphony, which reaches an ominous peak. The main idea again returns on low woodwind, and the movement ends somberly.

A graceful theme for violins is the main thematic element in the fourth movement, wryly commented on by woodwind and brass, which latter introduce a chorale motif as contrast, with some notably bizarre downwards woodwind glissandi as it evolves. The opening theme at length returns as a hushed string fugato, the mood growing livelier as woodwind hint at the chorale motif and muted strings press towards a culmination that merely evanesces into fragmentary recalls of the opening theme.

Over pulsating tom-toms, the fifth movement opens with a lively theme for piccolo and violins in alternation, passing to other woodwind as a further passage of dissonant polyphony is built up. Strings and woodwind now introduce a more decisive idea, which gravitates to the lower reaches of the orchestra before moving towards a lengthy fugato on the main theme. At its height the decisive idea is hammered out, and discussion of this continues energetically on brass and strings. The main theme now becomes the subject of lively debate in strings and woodwind, yet with the texture becoming ever sparer as it slows to a musing pause. At this point the main theme breaks out anew on the whole orchestra, bringing the symphony to a forceful yet hardly conclusive ending.

Richard Whitehouse

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