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Vyacheslav ARTYOMOV (b.1940)
Sola Fide (Only by Faith) (1985-87)
Ballet Suite 3 (Katia) [29:57]
Ballet Suite 4 (The Terrible Days) [23:29]
Tempo Costante – Concerto for Orchestra (1970) [16:27]
Inna Polianskaya (soprano)
Elmira Kugusheva (mezzo-soprano)
Aleksey Martinov (tenor)
Mikhail Lanskoi baritone)
Oleg Yanchenko (organ)
Kaunas State Choir
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Kitaenko
Moscow Chamber Orchestra "Musica Viva"/Murad Annamamedov (concerto)
rec. Moscow 1988/94
DIVINE ART DDA25164 [70:06]

I read Rob Barnett's review of the two previous releases by Divine Art of Vyacheslav Artyomov’s orchestral music with great interest when it appeared just over twelve months ago. I am more than happy to have the opportunity to review their latest release, which is hopefully a continuation of a more extended series.

Many consider Vyacheslav Artyomov Russia’s greatest living composer. He was born in Moscow in 1940, the son of a music teacher. He took to the piano at the age of six. At the wish of his parents, his formative years were geared towards physics and mathematics, since they had a scientific career in mind for him. Music won out in the end and eventually he ended up at the Moscow Conservatory, studying composition with Nikolai Sidelnikov. His music reflects diverse influences - neoclassical, Russian folk music and Eastern meditation. Composers who have provided inspiration for his work include Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Messiaen, Berio, Honegger and Varèse.

Sola Fide underwent a lengthy gestation. It began in the early 1980s with a suggestion from Nikita Dolgushin, a Leningrad-based dancer and choreographer, that Artyomov compose a ballet based on Aleksey Tolstoy's trilogy Road to Calvary. A libretto was initially mooted “after the novel” from Valeriya Lyubetskaya. This turned out not to be feasible. The composer thus adapted the subject, retaining the novel’s principal characters, especially that of the Poet, who symbolizes Culture – the creation and dissemination of which justifies humanity. The death of the Poet signifies the collapse of Humankind. Artyomov decided on a ballet-requiem, employing a full choir and soloists. Due to pressures of work the ballet was put on hold, but a Requiem emerged dedicated to the “Martyrs of long-suffering Russia”. It was premiered in 1988. It was not until 2016 that Sola Fide was finally completed. It consists of 30 episodes in 3 acts, 10 of which are shared with the Requiem. The episodes are forged into five suites: ‘Katia’, ‘Dasha’, ‘Poet’, ‘The Terrible Days’ and ‘Catastrophe’. This recording includes ‘Katia’ and ‘The Terrible Days’, two suites shared with the Requiem. Once again the composer dedicated the ballet to the “Martyrs of long-suffering Russia”.

The ballet suites are a dark and sombre affair, epic in proportions and impressively bold. Yet they have their more introverted moments of profound reflection. I hear a wealth of influences, of which Penderderecki seems prominent. The scores are also peppered with lashings of Boris Tchaikovsky and Schnittke. On the whole the music sounds quite tonal, with the orchestration scintillatingly etched in a panoply of colour. Haunting, ghostly and ethereal are adjectives I would use to describe the general tenor. The soloists and choir are raptly intense and Kitaenko directs a sure-footed account.

‘Tempo Costante’ is described as a Concerto for Orchestra. It dates from 1970. It’s certainly a more challenging proposition than the ballet suites. The composer describes it as playing “with an idea of unchangeable, eternal Time”, a theme expressed in the poems of Johann Mayrhofer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Alfred Tennyson. Artyomov states that this poetry may be read during performance; it isn’t here. Atonal and dissonant, vacillating and volatile, its imaginative and colourful orchestration, drawing on a resourceful array of percussion, confers a kaleidoscopic sonic blend.

Although these are premiere recordings, they are not recent. The Sola Fide suites were taped in 1988, though not from the original premiere Requiem recording. Latin texts are included in the booklet. I hope that the complete ballet will be recorded at some point. ‘Tempo Costante’ was recorded in Moscow in 1994 and has been sourced from the composer’s own archive. Despite their age, the recordings sound fresh and vibrant, and choral and orchestral detail has been well-preserved.

This captivating release will no doubt stir me on to explore more of this composer’s strikingly potent music.

Stephen Greenbank



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