Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko (b.1939): Symphony No. 7
Often considered the direct heir to the legacy ofShostakovich, Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko was born in Leningrad on 23rd March1939. Studies with Galina Ustvolskaya, a one-time pupil of Shostakovich, and atthe Leningrad Conservatory led to his taking a postgraduate course withShostakovich during the years 1962 to 1965. Active as a pianist, both as asoloist and in chamber music, he has taught at the Leningrad - now once morethe St Petersburg - Conservatory since 1965, becoming a professor there in 1986.
With a list of some 130 works to his credit, Tishchenko is aprolific composer who has contributed to all the major genres. Folk and ethnicmusic have both played their part in his thinking, together with composers asdiverse as Monteverdi and Mahler, in an idiom whose undogmatic approach totonal thinking won him theapproval of Shostakovich early in his career. This is particularly evident inthe Third of his eleven symphonic works (1966), which the older composersingled out for the \richness of its emotions, its clarity of thought and itsstructural logic", and the First Cello Concerto, written for Rostropovich in1963 and re-orchestrated by Shostakovich for more conventional forces in 1969.Such an empathy reached its apogee in the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, composedbefore and after Shostakovich's death in 1975, where an avowedly publicsymphonism is pursued in impressively large-scale terms.
After these Tishchenko turned more to chamber andinstrumental music (he has composed ten piano sonatas and five stringquartets), and choral works, only returning to orchestral symphonic writingwith his Seventh Symphony (1994). The work consists of five movements, arestrained slow movement framed by what might be termed a scherzo andintermezzo, and framed in their turn by substantial outer movements whichexhibit a free though resourceful approach to symphonic form, such as can befound in Shostakovich's later symphonies and string quartets.
The first movement of the symphony begins with a fragment onmuted trumpet, alternating with clarinet over pizzicato strings, before violinsintroduce a more wistful idea. These are heard in varied combinations beforethe clarinet idea gravitates to lower strings, then timpani, over which stringsand bassoons pursue a hesitant discussion. Violins and upper woodwind, thenbrass enter as the mood grows more animated, arriving at a lively, rathersardonic dance, then a vigorous fugato dominated by trombone slides. The dancerecommences, culminating in a brief climax based on the violins' wistful idea,which continues as the movement moves back to its beginning, and a decidedlyequivocal conclusion.
The second movement opens with a call to attention frombrass, and a vigorous dance to which piano and xylophone make an unexpected butcharacterful contribution. The music builds to a riotous climax, in which thedance is angrily taken apart by timpani and tom-toms. It then continues withsomewhat desperate jollity, passing through a passage of intensive stringpolyphony before regaining its initial focus. A skittering ascending gesturefrom piano, and the movement is brutally curtailed.
A plaintive oboe melody, accompanied by viola but gentlyoffset by muted trombone, begins the third movement. Upper woodwind graduallycoalesce into plangent discords, then into a series of repeated gestures incombination with trumpets and horns. The initial melody returns low in thebassoons, joined by other woodwind in a passage of increasingly dissonantpolyphony, which reaches an ominous peak. The main idea again returns on lowwoodwind, and the movement ends somberly.
A graceful theme for violins is the main thematic element inthe fourth movement, wryly commented on by woodwind and brass, which latterintroduce a chorale motif as contrast, with some notably bizarre downwardswoodwind glissandi as it evolves. The opening theme at length returns as ahushed string fugato, the mood growing livelier as woodwind hint at the choralemotif and muted strings press towards a culmination that merely evanesces intofragmentary recalls of the opening theme.
Over pulsating tom-toms, the fifth movement opens with alively theme for piccolo and violins in alternation, passing to other woodwindas a further passage of dissonant polyphony is built up. Strings and woodwindnow introduce a more decisive idea, which gravitates to the lower reaches ofthe orchestra before moving towards a lengthy fugato on the main theme. At itsheight the decisive idea is hammered out, and discussion of this continues energeticallyon brass and strings. The main theme now becomes the subject of lively debatein strings and woodwind, yet with the texture becoming ever sparer as it slowsto a musing pause. At this point the main theme breaks out anew on the wholeorchestra, bringing the symphony to a forceful yet hardly conclusive ending.