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R.D., February 2006

Boris Tchaikovsky is a century more advanced stylistically than Pyotr Ilich, although his final period – of which the 1971 Piano Concerto is an early example – shared Stravinsky’s fascination with Russian folk music. But Boris T. took a different approach, although Stravinsky’s Les Noces could be cited as an influence: he dealt in blocks of tonal sound – one could say akin to the Reich-Riley-Glass school in the U.S. except that Boris T’s ostinati are rhythmically varied as well as the bases for themes and structures throughout his 35-minute Concerto. It bears more than passing mention that Shostakovich, Myaskovsky and Shebalin were among his teachers, and that the first-named along with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich were Boris T’s champions. The five-movement Piano Concerto begins with iterated single notes that pianist Olga Solovyeva dispatches with sheer bravado, matched by the orchestra under the sympathetic and energizing leadership of Timur Mynbaev. I found myself as interested on a third hearing as I was initially. The recording made during May 2005 is close-up, expertly balanced and emphatic without sounding dry or gimmicky. The Clarinet Concerto is a much earlier work from Boris T’s 33rd year (1957), but it begins with a gentleness that carried over to the slow movement of the Piano Concerto. In its 11-minutes overall, however, the three-movement Clarinet Concerto ends saucily, virtually a tip-of-the-hat to Shostakovich, whom the younger composer vigorously defended when the Zdanov kangaroo court of 1948 broke the spirit of Myaskovsky, and made Prokofiev shockingly aware that the USSR he returned to a decade earlier was a police state that would not brook any breaking of its rigid rules “for the good of the people.” The most provocative work on this disc, however, is a four-song cycle based on poems by Fyodor Tyutchev, Aleksander Blok, Marina Tsvetaeva and Nicolai Zabolotsky, spanning 1803 to 1958 and set chronologically – “a link of human experience through the ages [and] a sense of timeless continuity of past, present and future, rather like the constellation of stars in the zodiac itself.” Set for soprano soloist (Yana Ivanilova, who is perfectly cast), harpsichord and strings in 1974, Signs of the Zodaic is music both lyrical and mystical, in no way connected to horoscopes or the planets as Gustav Holst characterized them in his orchestral suite. The texts are printed in the program along with a valuable program note by Louis Blois and the announcement of a not-for-profit Boris Tchaikovsky Society founded at Moscow in 2002, open to persons of all nationalities. I’d rather join this after the experience of Naxos’ introduction to these three durable works than hear another symphony, concerto or ballet by Pyotr Ilich. And while I don’t know the disc, Chandos has three works – The Wind of Siberia, Sebastopol Symphony, and Music for Orchestra – conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev on 10299, issued last year. Must check the wallet again.

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