Vyacheslav Artyomov – The Way to Olympus

Volume four of Divine Art’s Vyacheslav Artyomov series features a wide range of works — everything from a full orchestra (“The Way to Olympus”), to a solo piano (“Preludes to Sonnets”).

While the forces may vary, there’s a consistency throughout all these works. Artyomov’s deeply spiritual philosophy imbues every composition. The music alternates between suspended time and bursts of activity. Harmonies are post-tonal, yet not atonal.

“The Way to Olympus” is the first installment of Artyomov’s four-symphony cycle, “Symphony of the Way.” It begins with a long, slow introduction that gradually builds in texture.

The entire work is an intro of sorts. Artyomov further develops its themes in the subsequent three symphonies.

Still, “The Way to Olympus” arrives at a satisfying conclusion, so it works as a stand-alone piece. If you’re looking for an introduction to Artymov’s music, this is a good place to start.

Artyomov notes that “Preludes to Sonnets” is his only work for solo piano. That’s too bad. This is a quiet, introspective work that demands subtlety rather than showmanship from the pianist. Anton Batagov’s sympathetic performance is as finely nuanced as one could hope.

“Gurian Hymn” is based on a West Georgian Easter song. It’s treated as a cantus firmus, always present in some form. Three violin soloists work and rework the material, floating above the sound of a chamber orchestra. Like a crystal mobile, the music sparkles and shimmers as it turns again and again. “Gurian Hymn” satisfies at a deep emotional level.

“Concert of the 13” was written in 1967, the earliest work on the album. And it sounds like it, too. The piece is full of youthful energy, as motifs are tossed from instrument to instrument. Percussion plays a major role, driving the music ever forward. And yet there are moments where everything pauses, giving us a foretaste of the mature Artyomov’s style.

These recordings were originally issued on Melodiya, and the sound quality is quite good. Artyomov’s music is often quiet, with very subtle changes. All those details came through in this recording.

Vyacheslav Artyomov: Symphony: The Way to Olympus; Gurian Hymn; Preludes to Sonnets; Concert of the 13
Anton Batagov, Piotr Meschaninov, piano; Yevgeny Smirnov, Tatiana Grindenko, Yelena Adjemova, violin
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra; Dmitri Kitaenko, conductor
USSR State Academic Symphony Orchestra; Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Timur Mynbaev, conductor
Divine Arts DDA 25171

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