Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tchaikovsky, the Boris version

No, not family. Boris Tchaikovsky (1925-1996) is slowly gaining recognition as one of the better Soviet composers of the generation after Shostakovich and Prokofiev. His style is mainly tonal, but never outdated. He is a composer I am still exploring myself, and the Naxos disc I selected is not a bad place to start. The extensive piano concerto from 1971 is unlike any other I heard, including some flirts with minimalism (which was at the time just starting to gain ground in the USA), some highly melodic segments, but most importantly a stripped-down feeling, possibly a reaction to the heroic music in demand by the communist party. The short 1957 clarinet concerto is a real find, after the Nielsen and the Finzi my favourite of the 20th century. Melodic, wistful, with a breathtaking cadenza, and a delightful folksy finale. The CD concludes with the haunting 1974 cantata (actually a song cycle) for soprano and orchestra Signs of the Zodiac, with a surprising and effective role for a harpsichord. Excellent playing by the three soloists (Olga Solovieva, Anton Prischepa, and Yana Ivanilova, respectively) and the Russian Academy of Music Chamber Orchestra under Mynbayev, in an excellent recording. Warmly recommended to start exploring this rewarding composer.