Concert Notes

Boris Tishchenko’s Symphony No. 5

Notes by TŌN cellist Emma Churchill

The Composer 
Russian composer Boris Tishchenko was born in Leningrad, where he studied both composition and piano at Leningrad Musical College and the Leningrad Conservatory. He went on to do a postgraduate course with Dmitri Sostakovich from 1962–65; this symphony is dedicated to his beloved teacher. Completed in 1976, it is said to represent Tishchenko’s reaction to Shostakovich’s death in 1975. 

The Music 
Written in five movements, Tishchenko’s use of chromatic dissonance makes his pain very vivid to the audience. The first movement opens with a long, pensive English horn solo which lasts almost three minutes before the orchestra quickly interjects with dissonant chords before going into another woodwind solo, this time by the clarinet. Again, the orchestra comes in with the familiar dissonant chords before a duet between the flute and clarinet. As other wind and brass instruments begin to join in they bring us back to full orchestra, which is when the symphony really takes off. In the second movement you can hear the grief and heartache which leads right into the third movement, Sonata. Here you can hear the relationship between Tishchenko and Shostakovich, with quotes of Shostakovich’s 8th and 10th Symphonies. It’s as if we’re present for a conversation between the two composers. The climax of the third movement is explosive, in my opinion a combination of anger and heartache. We are brought back to a painful-sounding fourth movement which opens with trills in the winds and glissandi in the strings. There are wind, brass, and string solos sprinkled throughout this movement before a clarinet solo brings us into the fifth and final movement, Rondo. It has a dance-like quality in the opening, with quotes from previous movements by both composers which are heard throughout the movement before the flute and piccolo bring us to a calm end after a chaotic emotional storm.