Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra
Signs of the Zodiac
Olga Solovieva (piano)
Anton Prischepa (clarinet)
Yana Ivanilova (soprano)
Russian Academy of Music Chamber Orchestra
Recorded in May 2005 in Mosfilm Studios, Moscow
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: October 2006
CD No: NAXOS 8.557727
Duration: 70 minutes
Boris Tchaikovsky (1925-1996) was a student of the Moscow Conservatoire and a friend of Rostropovich and Shostakovich. A closer composer ‘reference’ in terms of ‘style’ may be the younger (and better-known) Rodion Shchedrin (born 1932), not least a sharing of dark humour and a sense of theatre.
The piano’s repeated notes at the beginning of the Piano Concerto (1971) are especially arresting, so too the variety that Tchaikovsky then introduces into this movement: a tour de force for all concerned. Olga Solovieva gives a scintillating account, so too does the orchestra. This first of five movements (labelled I-V), the concerto as whole lasting 35 minutes, is ‘jazzy’ and energetic and gives way to a ‘simple’ double bass solo, the piano entering with a salon-like melody, one slightly tinged; these instruments enter into duet before others enter, not least strident horns, to raise the emotional stakes. The strings offer sentimental refrains and the piano seems to become sadder. ‘III’ is gawky and explosive; horn calls introduce ‘IV’ before the pianist unleashes a toccata; and ‘V’ is perhaps the most searching music. Is there a way out? Sadly not, seems the answer.
Tchaikovsky writes unpredictable and accessible music that is quixotic, intense and ambiguous. Less equivocal is the Clarinet Concerto (1957) which begins with a reflective and touching melody, simple but soulful; the second movement scurries over its two-minute course, while the finale is rather baroque, but with a 20th-century edge, the clarinet now has a bright and breezy tune. A very enjoyable piece.
“Signs of the Zodiac” (1974) explores rich string textures in the opening ‘Prelude’, with a harpsichord featured (Irina Goncharova), an instrument heard in the four subsequent movements (the annotation suggests, but it is absent in ‘Silentium’ and ‘Cross O’ Four Roads’) and is there played by Solovieva. (No reason is given for having two harpsichordists.) Poems by Tyutchev, Blok, Tsvetaeva and Zabolotsky are set, the vocal line always melodic and expressive and vividly communicative. Naxos includes the Russian texts and an English translation, the last setting being in the manner of Russian folk-music. Yana Ivanilova is a fine advocate for a very likeable work.
Indeed these sympathetic, well recorded performances can only raise appreciation of Boris Tchaikovsky’s imaginative and distinctive music.