Friday, 2 December 2016

Vyacheslav Artyomov - Elegies (1990 compi, rec. 1983/1987)

Been getting into Artyomov (b. 1940, Moscow) lately, so time to share.  This 1990 compilation brings together three complementary works for strings and percussion, and feels like an ideal entry point.  A rough comparison might be the Arvo Pärt of Cantus & Tabula Rasa; Artyomov definitely has a spiritual-mystic bent that he fuses perfectly with an interest in the music of Eurasian liturgy and folklore.

Both of the self-contained shorter works on this disc, Lamentations for strings, percussion, piano and organ (1985) and Gurian Hymn for three solo violins, strings and percussion (1986) are beautiful icy blasts of melancholy that are starting to sink in much more for me at this time of year than when I got the CD in high summer.  Long, mournful string lines and twinkling, eerie percussion giving way to solemn bell-tones are the order of the day for these two bewitching pieces.

Taking up the rest of the disc is the three-movement Symphony of Elegies (1977), inspired, according to Artyomov, by some time spent in the Armenian mountains.  The writing for strings here approaches the kind of dense, chromatic clusters you'll find in Ligeti's most unsettling work, and the 20-minute third movement is a thing of otherworldy wonder, giving the chiming bells an austere, mystical centre-stage.

All in all, just the kind of wonderful, haunting music to get its composer blacklisted by the Soviet musical establishment, along with a handful of equally fascinating composers - I'm already starting to like the sound of Denisov's first symphony.  But for today, enjoy this handy Artyomov primer.



  1. Hi Alan.
    Thanks for the beautiful 'classical' music on your blog. I am always very interested in these posts. Even more than posts in the other genres which are also good, like John Abercrombie.

    1. many thanks Jan, that's encouraging - been wondering if I was doing too many classical posts, but if there's an audience out there for them, there will definitely be more!

    2. Excellent Alan. I like the rest also, Kraut, ECM, NWW et cetera. But these classical posts (p.e. this one and Komitas) are sometimes the ones which 'slipped under the radar' like Cellar said.

  2. Also appreciate the classical themes as of late. It is great to find contemporary composers that may have slipped under the radar by the likes of Arvo Part and Alfred Schnittke. Thanks for the music.