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Vladimir MARTYNOV (b.1946)
Lamentations of Jeremiah (1992)
Sirin Choir/Andrey Kotov
rec. March 1997, Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, Russia

Every cloud has a silver lining. Without the Spanish Inquisition a lot less art would exist and there are an almost infinite number of other examples in all fields of human life that prove the validity of the saying.
In music there are many examples and the background to The Lamentations of Jeremiah is one such. Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century B.C. (2 Kings 24-25, Jer. 39:1-10, Jer. 52) and the capture of King Zedekiah, it is said that the prophet Jeremiah hid in a cavern and wrote the book of lamentations; though there is dispute about its authorship. Down the centuries many composers have set it to music, among them Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and Robert White in England, Victoria, Palestrina, Ferrabosco the Elder, Lassus, Charpentier, Couperin and Jan Dismas Zelenka in Europe and in modern times Stravinsky, Ginastera, Krenek and Leonard Bernstein.
With this disc we have a Russian interpretation from composer Vladimir Martynov. What differentiates his from the many others is the traditional of Russian Orthodox Church singing. There is a quality about it that extends even beyond Russia. I was struck by how much the music also reminded me of that of Giya Kancheli, the Georgian composer - particularly the opening. What marks this tradition out is how the lowest voices in the choir are often used as a drone against which other voices sing. If listeners are unused to unaccompanied singing then this disc will take some adjusting to but those who enjoy it and Russian and Bulgarian Orthodox Church singing in particular will find this uplifting and rewarding. Even then one would not expect to listen to it often.
The singing here is exceptional with the Sirin Choir creating an otherworldly atmosphere that can bring both inner peace … and goose pimples. Martynov composed the work especially for this choir having been spellbound by their undoubted abilities in this special field. It has also been converted into a stage production that the Sirin Choir has taken to France, Italy, Germany, Estonia and Sweden. This must have been a mesmerising experience.
In the 24 years since the choir was formed it has garnered praise from around the world for its superlative performances. It is almost unique in its concentration on specifically liturgical works eschewing the romantic church-inspired music of the likes of Bortnyansky, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. This is music that, while it may be an acquired taste, is ultimately rewarding. Anyone who enjoys the music of Pärt, Tavener and Kancheli will find this a valuable listening experience. Brilliant Classics’ famously keen prices mean that dipping an aural toe in this water is easily possible.
Steve Arloff