The Whole Note

For those who are unfamiliar with Artyomov, the second of these discs probably is a better place to start, because the music’s emotional content is a little easier to grasp. On the Threshold of a Bright World (1990, rev. 2002) is the second symphony in the “Symphony of the Way” cycle. Artyomov has structured it in 18 continuous episodes, and the symphony’s total length is 36:31. The title ap¬pears to be an allusion to a section of the Book of Enoch, which Artyomov has used as an epigraph to the score: “These wonderful places are intended for the collecting spirits—souls of the dead … until the Last Judgment will take place over them.” After the fact, the title also has become a com¬mentary on today’s Russia, although this was “completely unexpected, [and] it was not one of my goals,” according to the composer. The beginning is sepulchral. Bass rumblings are answered by moaning phrases in the strings, somewhat similar to Penderecki’s The Awakening of Jacob. The Penderecki-like writing persists as the symphony continues, although not Penderecki from his earlier Sonorist phase, but later Penderecki in which his avant-gardisms were (and still are) softened by late-Romantic moods and gestures. An emotional apex is reached in Episode 7, and for the next several episodes crises comes in waves, culminating in Episode 14. The remaining four episodes seem to serve as a conciliatory postlude, and here, Artyomov’s writing becomes increasingly beautiful. The closing minutes of the symphony are very moving. At many points during the symphony’s course, solo instruments—violin, viola, piano, oboe, celesta, and organ—take on prominent roles, and the appropriate members of the orchestra are credited in the booklet.

—Roger Knox