Artyomov’s Gentle Emanation is Powerful Music

How to describe the music of Vyacheslav Artyomov? Imagine combining the structures of Arvo Pärt, the ethereal sound clouds of Kaija Saariaho, the intensity of György Ligeti, and the deep spirituality of John Tavener.

Artyomov has a unique compositional voice that, while sharing elements with the afore-named composers, communicates in a musical language that’s all his own.

When I first heard Artyomov, I was enraptured by his mystical world of tones and colors. Unfortunately, my introduction was through an old Melodiya CD with no liner notes. All I had was the music — and really, that was all I needed.

Artyomov’s music isn’t tonal or atonal — it’s beyond those considerations. Rather, there’s a strong internal logic that dictates the unfolding of the music. Every note sounds like it’s exactly where it should be — even in the passages free of tonal centers.

These new recordings of Artyomov’s music from Divine Art are welcome, indeed. The performances are more solid and assured than those of vintage Melodiya releases. The Russian National Orchestra plays cleanly and precisely — two essentials for the impact of Artyomov’s music to be fully realized.

The liner notes (in a language I can read) are welcome, too. It helps put the works in context. I was aware that “Gentle Emanation” was part of his larger “Way” symphonic tetralogy, but I didn’t know that it was the third in the series, or that it was based on the Book of Job. According to the composer, this work represents  “the facets of one soul in its aspiration to overcome challenges [to] find a way to the light.”

The album’s companion piece is his 1997 “Trista II, fantasy for piano and orchestra.” It features a reader reciting a poem by Nikolay Gagol. Spoken word in a piano concerto? It works — and it works well. The rhythm and inflection of the poetry become a contemplative melody. And it retains its emotional power even when the listener (like me) doesn’t understand a word.

Vyacheslav Artyomov
Symphony: Gentle Emanation; Tristia II, Fantasy for piano and orchestra
Russian National Orchestra; Treodor Currentzis, Vladimir Ponkin, conductors
Philip Kopachevsky, piano; Mikhail Philippov, reader
Divine Art dda25144

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