The eight symphonies
of Avet Terterian were written between
1969 and 1989.
He was born in Baku
in Azerbaijan and his music studies
(1957-59) took place in the Armenian
capital of Yerevan under Edward Mirzoyan.
His Seventh Symphony
alternates assertive and almost
militaristic timpani salvos with barely
audible reflections of eternity. Hammered
out oppressive tragedy is juxtaposed
with enigmatic sphinx-like confidences,
held notes, short chant-like tesellae.
The music is tense and lours with foreboding.
It remains tonal and is never dense
in vertical structure. The work's miasma
of tragedy ties in with the second of
his two operas Earthquake which
recalls the massively destructive tremors
that hit Armenia in December 1988.
The Eighth Symphony
is of a different character. It
starts with a held loud yowl from the
brass which resolves into a nihilistic
percussive storm. This in turns falls
away into the near silence of two vestigially
distant female voices holding a single
vocalised note with violins doing the
same. Drums and harp toll out quietly
yet insistently. The textures and ideas
are laid out for the listener with painful
razor-sharp clarity. There are no busy
distractions - musical germs and ideas
are stated and reiterated. The music
evokes a meditative and even tranced
state until percussive chiming and rattling
rouses us with a vortex of bird song.
Imperiously dissonant brass are topped
off with baying primeval horns and hammered
ffff bass drumming. A quietly drummed
heartbeat over a Pendereckian anxiety
of strings out of the right field leads
us through another transition. Here,
over rattling percussion, a bluesy clarinet
calls out. Those voices return - or
have they always been there - with their
quietly cycling Neptune-like
slow ululation. They then fade until
the bass drum's triple-note reports
gradually decay over the last four minutes
fading from ffff to pppp.
These are two single
movement structures across 32 minutes.
The Terterian discography
is almost as exiguous as that of Kancheli.
The symphonies of Terterian can be heard
on single discs from Beaux, ASV and
BMG-Melodiya. However I understand that
all eight have been recorded on the
Armenian PO's own label. How they stack
up against the long-deleted BMG disc
of Nos 3 and 6 and the ASV I do not
know as I have been unable to track
down review copies. If anyone out there
has copies and would be able to review
them for the site this is something
we would value.
This disc is superbly
annotated by Tatjana Frumkis and is
staggeringly well recorded; pity they
have not tackled the others. As for
Liss and his virtuoso orchestra he has
gone on to make recordings for Warners,
the latest being Miaskovsky 6 and 10.
There you have it.
Two intensely serious meditative-violent
symphonies from a composer who held
to the eternal verities and mysteries
and revelled in contrasts of virtual
silence and vehement fury.
Note from Patrick
de Clerck of Megadisc:-
The Terterian recording is a bit abnormal:
Avet wished and prayed for his music
to be respected in the dynamics, so
I did my best to serve him. In other
words: the difference between loud and
silent on that CD is extreme, just as
he would have wished, but as no other
company would do, they would have brought
it closer together, compression it is
called, I think. PdC