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This review is from: Music Of Vladimir Martynov (Audio CD)
According to Vladimir Martynov the classical tradition has been exhausted, all has been said, and after the introduction of 20th century techniques, all has been tried. No use inventing something new. The present day composer is more of a mediator than creator and therefore can feel free to dig in the rich past and use as he pleases. Like in the old days one quoted freely from folk songs and hymns, one can now also fall back on classical works. Martynovs music, whether it be for piano, string orchestra or chorus, is largely tonal and romantic, though he isn't shy of a dissonant or modernism. It is usually built from small blocks - a simple motif, a quote - that is repeated over and over, looked at from all angles. Not so much the American interpretation of minimalism where layers shift and variations take over, here the variations are hardly noticeable, the accent is on the repetition itself. The block acts like a mantra, the endless repetitions of it make it into a meditation, drawing the listener beyond the music, shutting him off from the outside world. On the other hand this can make for a trying experience if you want to listen to the music for music's sake; expecting virtuoso solo's or surprising melodic developments. Not that they are not there, but sparsely, especially so on present cd. Here he has taken his manifesto to the extreme, the main parts of the works being soft in volume, slow and extremely repetitious, nearly impersonal.
Opener The Beautitudes perfectly sets the mood, actually sums up all the features mentioned: repetitions ebb and swell, ebb and swell, and before you know it is over.
Not so in The Schubert-Quintet [Unfinished], where there is an opportunity for Joan Jeanrenaud to team up with her former Kronos' mates. It takes Schubert's style as its lead. Though it is perfect for rest and contemplation, to other ears it might rapidly become boring. Just when you think it is over, it all starts again and you are only halfway.
As goes for the much longer Der Abschied, written in memory of his deceased father. The forty minutes' circular work starts and ends with imitating the slow, regular, then halting breathing of a dying man. The strings sound here like a slowly drawn accordion, later giving way to a Mahler quote, that is repeated and developed. They alternate until in the end they merge, like the listener's breath has synchronized in time with the music.
Not close to being a masterpiece, this cd can be rewarding if in the right mindset. As usual with Kronos, all works were commissioned by them, The Beatitudes as a re-working. It adds an interesting chapter to their so diverse repertoire and might introduce new listeners to this controversial post-composer. Them I would advice to listen also to the musically more diverse Requiem and Come in!, both for ensembles. Despite the repetitions and length, some of his choral works are astounding.