Tishchenko Harp Concerto Marinutsa Sugako
(1939–2010) To My Brother, op. 98. Testament, op. 96. Harp Concerto, op. 69
Parisian Symphony Orchestra
Boris Tishchenko (1939–2010) is routinely described as
the direct successor to Shostakovich, including on the blurb for this release. So
are many other Russian composers of his generation, especially when, like
Tishchenko, they specialized in symphonies and concertos. Tishchenko studied
with Shostakovich, and also with Ustvolskaya, and inherited much from both,
though in the case of Ustvolskaya, only from her “official” side. But
Tishchenko’s music is rarely as anguished as theirs. While conservative in
style—and fully meeting Socialist Realist requirements—there is a questing,
exploratory aspect to his music, often experimenting with unusual tone colors
and exploring surprising instrumental combinations.
Those are the strongest qualities of the three works
presented here. The disc is titled Complete
Works for Harp, which seems arbitrary, given that the program is made up of
a substantial concerto with two short songs as filler, both with harp in the accompanying
ensemble. But the program does make sense, as the soprano from the songs, Anara
Khassenova, returns in the concerto to provide a vocalize obbligato in the
fourth of its five movements.
The two songs were composed in 1986, the first in
memory of the composers’ brother, Mikhail. Confusingly, the two works both set
poems called “Testament,” the first by Lermontov, the second by the Modernist
poet Nikolay Zabolotsky. In the first, soprano and flute are equal partners,
exchanging lyrical phrases over the harp’s sometimes petulant accompaniment. Testament replaces the flute with an
organ, which balances the percussive interjections of the harp.
The concerto was composed in 1977, for the composer’s
third wife, Irina
Donskaya-Tishchenko. Her recording has been reissued on Northern Flowers 9963. Although the work is long—over 40 minutes—the scale of the musical
expression is generally modest. Perhaps with an eye to balance between harp and
ensemble, Tishchenko rarely employs the full orchestra (just a chamber ensemble
in any case), instead matching the harp to solo instruments for extended duets.
This often plays out as Klangfarbenmelodie,
as one accompanying instrument gives way to another of similar tone. Tishchenko
also takes a coloristic approach to modality, and the soloist moves between two
harps with different tunings. The harp writing is fairly conventional, though
more adventurous than the continual arpeggios that make up most orchestral
writing for the instrument. There are occasional glissandos, but otherwise most
of the solo part is made up of single-line melodies and chordal interjections.
Ionella Marinutsa is a Russian harpist, based in
Paris. In fact, the conductor and all of the soloists are from former Soviet
republics but now Paris-based. Marinutsa gives fine performances, suitably elegiac
and reflective in the concerto’s many quiet moments, and always sustaining the
melodic line. Soprano Khassenova has a rich, even tone, which balances well
against the harp. The International Parisian Symphony Orchestra appears to be a
pick-up group, founded as recently as December 2018 by the present conductor
and here making its recording debut. The players cope well with the exposure of
their minimally accompanied solos, but the ensemble playing is ordinary and
lacks color. Packaging and documentation are the usual Naxos bare bones, though
Richard Whitehouse’s generous liner note includes translations of the poems, but
without the Russian originals.
appears in Fanfare magazine issue 43:5.
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