Star Wind – outstanding chamber music by Vyacheslav Artyomov

This reissue from Divine Arts brings together several short chamber works by Vyacheslav Artyomov. Each work has its own unique combination of instruments, and (in a way) its own aesthetic.

The opening track, Star Wind, is a 1981 sextet featuring violin, cello, flute, French horn, piano, and glockenspiel. To me, it sounds like a very early work. Artyomov’s mature style involves sculpting forms out of shifting sound clouds. To me, this work sounded as if it were written in a dodecaphonic style, with all the rigor that implies.

Nestling Antasali for flute and piano features the composer at the keyboard. His presence makes the performance an authoritative one. This set of theme and variations begins in strict 12-tone style. As it progresses, though, the form seems to loosen and expand. For me, it seemed as if Artyomov was transitioning into his mature style with this work.

Moonlight Dreams for soprano, alto flute, cello, and piano sets English translations of 17th Century Chinese poems. There is a dreamlike quality in the sustained, slow-moving harmonies. Although atonal, the music seemed looser and less mathematical than that of Star Wind.

The Romantic Capriccio, for French horn, piano and string quartet dates from 1976 was written in tribute to Jean Sibelius. It’s one of the most tonal works I’ve heard by Artyomov and contains passages of real beauty (especially for the horn).

Morning Songs is an interesting work for violin, flute, guitar, with a soprano singing behind a curtain. It casts the singer as a ghost or echo — shading, but not affecting the instrumental trio.

The earliest work on the album is Scenes (Grand Pas). Written in 1971, for a ballet sequence, it’s a jaunty little number full of rhythm and attitude. It reminded me a little of Alfred Schnittke — in spirit, that is.

Some of these pieces hint at what Artyomov would become, and some show roads not taken. Thus, I wouldn’t recommend “Star Wind” as an introduction to the composer. Best to start with one of his orchestral releases. But if you — like me — love Artyomov’s music, this release is a must-have.

Vyacheslav Artyomov: Star Wind

Star Wind for violin, cello, flute, French horn, piano, and glockenspiel; Variations: Nestling Antsali for flute and piano; Moonlight Dreams for soprano, alto flute, cello, and piano; Romantic Capriccio for French horn, piano, and string quartet; Mattinate (Morning Songs) for soprano, violin, flute, and guitar;  Scenes (Grand Pas) for violin, clarinet, bass, piano, and percussion
Various artists
Divine Art

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