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Avet TERTERIAN (1929-1994)
Symphony No. 7 (1987) [32:10]
Symphony No. 8 (1989) [32:42]
Ural PO/Dmitri Liss
rec. Yekaterinenburg Philharmonia, August-September 1999. DDD
MEGADISC MDC 7826 [64:57]

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.

Rob Barnett

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

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