BORIS TISCHENKO: Dante Symphony No. 1, “Among the Live”; No. 2, “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here” – St. Petersburg Philharmonic/ conductors: Yuri Kochnev (No. 1), Nikolai Alexeev (No. 2) – Northern Flowers PMA 9961, 68:04 ** [Distr. by Albany]:
Tischenko (b. 1939) is a name I’d heard about for a number of years, but never actually encountered any of his music. The style is hard to categorize; one moment we think we are listening to some fairly sophisticated tone-painting of dramatic provenance, and then another moment he seems to wander into areas where some rather banal music is meant to supply emotional sustenance. The result is material that is only intermittently interesting and ultimately fails to render its subject matter in any comprehensible way. Of course, we might be able to lay the blame on Dante, whose specific descriptions of all the personages in heaven and below make his writing one of the masterpieces of western civilization. Even Liszt, whose lugubrious attempt at thrusting Dante into the romantic world fails terribly (though many still love the effort, accepting Liszt’s bombastic proclivities from the start) seemed to know when to quit, whereas Tischenko gives us five symphonies worth of material!
The CD presents only the first two installments, though No. 2 is actually subdivided into two different sections, representing to me a far more literal attempt that perhaps just cannot be accomplished musically. It became no easy trick to pay attention to the composer’s wild and varied diffusions that ultimately have meaning in his own mind, but which are not conveyed to his listeners in any meaningful manner.
I don’t know if Northern Flowers has the remainder of this monster already in the vaults or not, but they do need to clean up a lot of this production. The sound is that of the old Melodiya LPs, excessively treble-heavy and completely lacking any bass presence. There is some horribly noisy audience racket at the beginning, almost as if the microphones had been turned to face the people instead of the orchestra, and though the St. Pete Philharmonic plays well, this live performance gives us the typical orchestral spits and sputters that you would expect in such a setting.
Only fans of Tischenko are directed to this one, and even then with great caution. Dante No. 4 seems to be available as well at the moment (by these same forces), and there are smatterings of the other symphonies currently on the market as well. Generally speaking, this recording just won’t do.
— Steven Ritter