Outside of Russia, Boris Tishchenko (1939-2010) is not well covered by record labels nor in the concert hall. He was, in fact, Dmitri Shostakovich’s favourite pupil (and lifelong friend) and continued his legacy with music in all genres. This recording from Naxos is to be praised for its continuing to issue music by Tishchenko. With the rediscovery of Mieczysław Weinberg in full flow, may I dare suggest a similar situation for the equally gifted and interesting Tishchenko?
The composer married a fellow professor (for harp) at the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire; he was, himself, Professor of Composition, and so this recording appropriately features the harp in either a primary or ensemble role. The protagonist in all the works is the young, Russian-born harpist, Ionella Marinutsa, and this is the debut-recording of the International Parisian Symphony Orchestra – founded in Paris in 2018, by the conductor, Mikhail Sugako. Tishchenko’s questing nature in his compositional style can take a little time to become acquainted with but this expressive individuality points to a composer of ambition and real substance.
The two opening works on this CD are straightforward in establishing the listener’s interest and enjoyment; To My Brother is a heartfelt, lyrical lament on the death of the composer’s brother, the scientist Mikhail Tishchenko, and is beautifully crafted by Anara Khassenova, soprano, Artem Naumenko, flute and Ionella Marinutsa, harp. The text is a poem by Mikhail Lermontov entitled Testament. Another poem with the same name and written by Nikolay Zabolotsky was set by Tishchenko in the same year, 1986, and is for soprano, harp and organ (Anna Homenya). It is a lively piece that catches the attention with its more demonstrative style using an unorthodox ensemble. It receives a sympathetic performance.
The Harp Concerto has yet another musical manner, this time where the message is totally abstract, and one that can be absorbed by the individual listener. It is composed in five linked movements with movement 4 involving a wordless soprano part, nicely projected by Naumenko. The manner of this work is rather cryptic and contains myriad different gestures, all of them striking. Marinutsa displays her considerable gifts throughout the concerto and is ably supported by Sugako and his new orchestra.
This recording can, hopefully, continue to project Tishchenko’s reputation beyond Russia, where he is a revered composer in post-war Russia. He seems to have continued his teacher’s penchant for ambiguous messages in his music that makes for fascinating listening. The Harp Concerto is a good example; so are his many symphonies and choral works. As such, he deserves a much higher profile in the world’s music centres, and this CD can be easily recommended as an introduction to his large output.