Boris Tischenko: Dante Symphony No. 1; Dante Symphony No. 2

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A pupil and protégé of Shostakovich, Russian composer Boris Tischenko is at his best when he resembles his teacher most and at his worst when he resembles him least. In these recordings of the first two of his five Dante Symphonies, Tischenko's music fares about as well as can be expected. Played by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Kochnev (in the First Symphony) and Nikolai Alexeev (in the Second), the performances here are more than serviceable if less than inspired. The musicians know where they're going and how to get there, but they sound like they're particularly enjoying the journey. One can hardly blame them: Tischenko's scores are expertly put together and skillfully scored, but they still sound like a series of musical effects yoked together only by Tischenko's ambitious scheme to set the entirety of Dante's Divine Comedy. In practice, this means alternating episodes of terror and ecstasy with nothing to hold them in place except the composer's willpower, which, it must be said, is not always altogether up to the task. For listeners who already know and love Shostakovich's music and are looking for something similar, the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg may be more appealing. Weinberg owes a debt to Shostakovich, but he is clearly his own man. Tischenko owes a great debt to Shostakovich, and he's still paying it off in these Dante Symphonies. Though recorded in 1998 and 2001, the digital sound here is dim, gray, and boxy.

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