First published in the Guardian on 28 August, 2015
Tishchenko: Piano Sonatas 7 & 8
Boris Tishchenko (1939-2010) was a Soviet composer of dark and exuberantly offbeat music. He wrote a lot and what he wrote was generally not shy. He charted the struggle of Soviet artists in his vehement orchestral song-cycle Requiem; he was a devotee of Shostakovich and it shows in his the prickly wit and grotesque pastiches of his music. That he was a superb pianist himself underpins the expansive, gnarly language of his 11 piano sonatas. On this recording French pianist Nicolas Stavy tackles the Seventh, longest and formally weirdest of them all, with its clanging tubular bells and acid glockenspiel (played by Jean-Laude Gengembre) adding to the absurd melodrama of the mix. The Eighth is more taught — a tight-sprung riot of tough counterpoint, mordant send-ups and suddenly bare, solemn chorales. Stavy’s playing is fearless throughout. He unleashes outrageous whirlwinds then finds penetrating space and contemplation in slow passages.