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Vyacheslav ARTYOMOV (b.1940)
A Sonata of Meditations (1970s) [28:04]
A Garland of Recitations (1970s) [29:29]
Totem (1970s) [11:58]
Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow State Philharmonic/Virko Baley
Mark Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble
rec. Moscow, 1983-92
DIVINE ART DDA25174 [69:44]

This is music with a welcoming yet far from facile surface. Compare it with the, at times, harsh and unrelenting Edison Denisov, the intriguing density and mysticism of Sergei Zhukov and the entangled psychedelic delights of Silvestrov. Russian composer Vyacheslav Artyomov has been enjoying an invigorating injection of attention courtesy of The Divine Art. The present CD - the seventh in the project - sets out two works for percussion ensemble and one for orchestra. The other six DDA discs include a full-scale and full-on Requiem which was the sixth disc in the series.

A Sonata of Meditations is thirty, largely quiet, minutes of polished silvery tintinnabulation and percussive hyperactivity. The listener is lead through a chaste world of Meditations: one each for Morning; Afternoon; Evening and Midnight - one track for each Meditation. This work, with its mélange of measured silence, wooden rasps, humming gong, arrhythmia and regular rhythmic figuration is a gift to the Mark Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble. Pekarsky leads what we are assured is the first and elite Russian percussion ensemble. The music is not a stone's throw distant from the similarly instrumented works of Alan Hovhaness, Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison. As for Totem this is a more kinetic, virtuosic, dramatic and humorous piece by comparison with A Sonata of Meditations. It comes complete with swanee-whistle and rattle-snake noises alongside much else.

A Garland of Recitations is an orchestral work in a single movement and in one track. Against poised, introspectively prayerful strings, which seem to speak of the night-sky, individual solo instruments sing out They are closely foregrounded by the engineers. The solos are mostly woodwind, often in cool idyllic mode, but once in a while an orchestral piano adds its DNA to the mix. The style is just as meditative and undramatic as that in evidence for the Sonata but with a libation of dissonance, angularity and moaning groans. Good to see that among the solo musicians are Valeri Popov, the soloist in the Melodiya recording of the Bassoon Concerto by Jolivet and saxophonist Lev Mikhailov who turned in an excellent reading of the Glazunov Concerto in 1976; both very different works from the Artyomov.

The music is recorded with stark fidelity and the solo instruments in the Garland are quite closely recorded. As for the programme notes by Robert Matthew-Walker, they tell the reader about the composer, these three scores and the performers. The notes are in English and Russian (Cyrillic).

These Melodiya-originated recordings are far from nebulous. One can imagine that a full-score could be prepared from what we hear; such is the candour of the sound.

Rob Barnett

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