Nikolai Alekseev / Nikolay Alexeyev / St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra

Boris Tischenko: Dante Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 5

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In a word, dreadful; in two words, really dreadful; in three words, really, really dreadful. Those would perhaps be the three most fitting reviews of this disc coupling Boris Tischenko's Third and Fifth "Dante" symphonies -- "Inferno" (2001) and "Paradise" (2005) -- in performances by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under Nikolai Alekseev. Dreadful would be an apt description of the sound, which is big and loud, and at the same time gray and cramped. If orchestras actually sounded like this in live performance, very few people would be able to stand listening to live classical music. Really dreadful would characterize of the performances, which sound unprepared, unenthusiastic, and unappealing. If Alekseev and the St. Petersburg orchestra played Shostakovich or Prokofiev with the level of skill, energy, and dedication that they bring to Tischenko, very few people would want to listen to those major composers. Really, really, dreadful is an all-too-fitting report on the music. Both symphonies here are "after Shostakovich" literally and figuratively; literally in that Tischenko's works followed Shostakovich's chronologically, and figuratively in that they appropriate many of the older composer's worst habits and make them worse. Bombast becomes balderdash, bathos becomes ballyhoo, and bitter sarcasm becomes snide silliness. One can only hope that these works are not representative of post-Soviet Russian music.

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