Boris Tishchenko: 8th Symphony (Naxos)
★★★★ (out of five)
Try as I might, I can’t stop listening to these late works of a Russian composer who was close to Shostakovich but never tried, as others did, to imitate him. The eighth symphony, written in 2008 when Tishchenko was mortally ill, draws the ear into an eerie landscape of ghosts, trolls and spooks, weird and possibly political. The composer thought it might make a good companion piece to Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. He was right: it would. But where is the conductor or orchestra manager that dares to do such a thing in timid 2017?
Unlike Schubert, there are expressions here of rage and despair, presumably a reflection of the composer’s experience under Soviet rule, followed by a reckless Allegro straight out of the Mahler rulebook. It’s a seriously interesting symphony. Tishchenko was once suspected of smuggling Solomon Volkov’s Shostakovich memoirs out of the USSR.
The concerto for violin, piano and string orchestra (2006) is bleak, economical and at times claustrophobic, faintly reminiscent of his teacher, Galina Ustvolskaya. Three deathbed songs to poems of Marina Tsvetayeva are recorded here for the first time. Yuri Serov conducts the St Petersburg State Symphony with taut control and passionate intuition. I cannot understand why international Russian conductors continue to ignore Tishchenko.
Boris Tishchenko: 8th Symphony (Naxos) is available at iTunes.