Divine Art continues their reissue of Vyacheslav Artyomov recordings with “A Symphony of Elegies.”

Artyomov’s 1977 “A Symphony of Elegies” was written during a trip to the mountains of Dilijan, Armenia. To me, the work forms a fascinating contrast to the mountain-inspired symphonies of American/Armenian composer Alan Hovhaness.

Both composers eschew the standard notion of “symphony,” and both depict timeless solidity of mountains — and their primal spiritual significance. Artyomov is even less concerned with tonality than Hovhaness, and therein lies the difference.

Artyomov’s symphony is a slowly swirling cloud of sound. The solo violins sometimes float atop the string orchestra, other times they’re obscured by it. But always there’s a tension between the two. Violinists Oleh Krysa and Tatiana Grindenko are the soloists, and their also the performers for “Awakening.”

Artyomov dedicated “Awakening” to Krysa and Grindenko, who premiered the work in 1978. Artyomov considered it a postlude to the symphony. Listening to the two works back-to-back I could hear why. “Awakening” inhabits the same audio world as the symphony. With just two violins, Artyomov strips the music down to its essence.  The violins must both generate the sustaining tones and the melodies above them. Its a remarkably intimate and haunting work.

For me, the most interesting of these three very interesting works was “Incantations.” Artyomov conducts the Mark Pekansky Percussion Ensemble and soprano Lydia Anatolyevna Davydova in this recording. These are the artists he composed the work for, so I consider this the definitive performance.

Artyomov deconstructs the human voice, separating vowels, consonants, and other sounds into discrete blocks. He then uses them — along with various percussive sounds — to create something that’s more than the sum of the parts.

Alfred Schnittke described “Incantations” as  “a strikingly realistic and vivid sound image of primeval magic.” I agree. I’d even say that all three works evoke a mystical sonic realm only attainable through Artyomov’s creative imagination.

Vyacheslav Artyomov: A Symphony of Elegies
Tatiana Grindenko and Oleh Krysa, violins
Mark Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble;
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra; Saulius Sondeckis, conductor
Divine Art DDA 25172