Two suites from the ballet ‘Sola Fide’ (‘Only by Faith’)

Artyomov: Sola Fide & Tempo Costante°

Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Kaunas State Choir, Dmitri Kitayenko
Musica Viva Chamber Orchestra, Murad Annamamedov°

Vyacheslav Petrovich Artyomov (born 29.06.1940) is a Russian composer who works chiefly in the fields of symphonic and chamber music. He regards himself to be an adherent of the Romantic tradition, although he has been influenced by a variety of composers including Berio, Honegger, Messiaen, Prokofiev, Scriabin, Stravinsky and Varèse as well as Russian folklore and traditional Eastern music. Nonetheless a brief exploration of Artyomov’s works shows that he has his own unique “voice”.

He has also written a well regarded Requiem and two ballet scores; Expectations, in one act, after paintings of Antoine Watteau, and Sola Fide (Only by Faith), a three-act work, comprised of 30 episodes based on Tolstoy’s novel The Road to Calvary.

The Sola Fide episodes have been worked into a total of five suites; two of which are performed on the recording under review. We are treated to Suite No. 3 “Katia” and Sola Fide Suite No. 4 “The Terrible Days”; two suites shared with the Requiem. These are performed by a group of soloists¹, the Kaunas State Choir, the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow State Philharmonic and are conducted by the Leningrad born Dmitri Kitayenko, who received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the International Classical Music Awards in March 2015. These two works are followed by a Concerto for Orchestra Tempo Costante performed by the Moscow Chamber Orchestra “Musica Viva” under the direction of Murad Annamamedov.

This is not a recording to brighten the soul; the suites are somewhat dark in character and much of the music is somewhat sombre but they do contain some beautifully reflective passages. The works are conceived on a massive scale and are essentially tonal with rich orchestration providing a depth of colour. The choir, under Piatras Bingialis, are fully committed to the performance and add a celestial and ghostly atmosphere to the piece; a feeling which is further enhanced by the addition of the four soloists in the finale of The Terrible Days. Dmitri Kitayenko keeps the music together most effectively. Although this recording dates back to the late 1980s the sound is surprisingly good and when listening on high quality headphones or a large stereo system one can fully appreciate Artyomov’s brilliant orchestration.

The concluding work is the 1970 piece Tempo Costante – A concerto for orchestra which plays with an idea of unchangeable, eternal Time. The composer points out that the same notion is expressed in the poems of Johann Mairhofer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Alfred Tennyson, which can be read during the performance of the work (though not in this recording).

This recording of the two suites, in particular, served as an excellent introduction to the work of Artyomov and encouraged me to seek out recordings of his Requiem and his symphony On the Threshold of a Bright World. Having heard these I shall certainly be on the lookout for further recordings of works by this composer who “is now is the only composer creating serious monumental compositions of tremendous strength and beauty. He is Bruckner of the 21st century.” (Teodor Currentzis, conductor).

It is always interesting to encounter works by composers with whom one is unfamiliar and on this occasion it was truly stimulating and has set me on the road to exploring further treasures by Artyomov. There seems to be a genuine spirituality and sense of dignity underlying his works and if you are prepared to listen attentively you will find this music communicates with you in a most direct manner. A revelation!

iClassical rating: 

¹ Inna Polianskaya (soprano), Elmira Kugusheva (mezzo-soprano), Aleksey Martinov (tenor), Mikhail Lanskoi (baritone), Oleg Yanchenko (organ).