Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud - Music of Vladimir Martynov (2012) [Repost]

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Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud - Music of Vladimir Martynov (2012) [Repost]

Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud - Music of Vladimir Martynov (2012)
EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 322 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 196 Mb | Scans included
Classical, Contemporary | Label: Nonesuch | # 529776-2 | Time: 01:08:47

Vladimir Martynov, born in 1946, is one of the cohort of composers that includes Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, and Valentin Silvestrov, who grew up under the influence of the former Soviet Union and abandoned the modernism of their youth to embrace a tonal language of greater simplicity with an aesthetic informed by an intimate spirituality. In spite of the similarities in their backgrounds and journeys, each has a distinctive sound, and Martynov, who is perhaps the least well-known in the West, brings a new perspective to the tradition of European music shaped by mysticism and minimalism. On the surface Martynov's music doesn't have an immediate resemblance to minimalism (apart from the directness of its tonal language), but like minimalism it uses repetition as a structural element and it is concerned with the perception of the passage of time, which it tends to stretch out with almost unbearable poignancy into what commentator Greg Dubinsky describes as "a prolonged state of grace." His harmonic vocabulary is characterized by the fecund tonal richness of post-Romanticism without the angst or decadence sometimes associated with the music of that era. The two composers Martynov references in the pieces recorded here are Schubert and Mahler, both of whom had immense expressive range but were especially noted for the pure, unsentimental sweetness they could summon. Der Abschied (The Farewell), written in memory of the composer's father, draws on material from Das Lied von der Erde. It opens with a bleak, sinking desolation, but over the course of its 40 minutes the music blossoms into an unabashed hyper-Romanticism of unguarded expressiveness and intense sweetness. Martynov wrote his Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished) for the current members of the Kronos plus Joan Jeanrenaud, the group's original cellist. Its two movements take as their core material the rising octave figure of Schubert's great C major Quintet, and the composer interweaves other themes from the Schubert throughout. Martynov originally wrote The Beatitudes for chorus, but arranged it especially for Kronos. The performances are wrenchingly heartfelt, steeped more in the kind of old-school Romanticism of groups like the Budapest Quartet than is typical for Kronos, but the approach is utterly appropriate for the music. Nonesuch's sound is clean, warmly immediate, and vibrant. Martynov could provide an ideal entryway into contemporary music for listeners open to new works and new ideas, but who tend to be shy of dissonance. Highly recommended.

Review by Stephen Eddins,

Vladimir Martynov (b.1946) is another of what I call the “Mystic Minimalists,” composers (mostly from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus) who write slow, spacious, tonal, and repetitive music, often informed by spiritual concerns and traditions (for just a couple of examples, the influence of Orthodox liturgy is everywhere in the music of Pärt, and I hear a similar bent in the work of Valentin Silvestrov). Martynov is among the most extreme of the group in his devotional practice, having foresworn composition during the 1980s to research and reconstruct Orthodox chant at a research monastery (my term) near Moscow. I also feel that he has a particular profile as a composer who writes meta-music, music based on other pieces, something that paradoxically erases his individuality and yet also affirms a very special, personal vision.

The three works on the program span a rough decade. The Beatitudes (1998) is a simple phrase, about eight measures, obsessively repeated, with slight variations of texture and harmony on each pass. It’s a form of meditation where the chanting of a mantra leads to an epiphany. That ecstasy is symbolic, as the piece is only about five minutes, but it suggests an almost infinite expanse beyond its conclusion. Schubert Quintet (Unfinished) (2009) is in fact a recomposition of the famous C-Major Quintet, an exceptionally nervy undertaking. Martynov takes selected phrases from the opening and slow movements of the Schubert and explores each progression from a multitude of perspectives. The result is a sort of underwater Schubert, floating and gliding with no sure purpose and yet somehow quite natural. This is in many ways appropriate, as the Schubert Adagio is one of the great early examples of a timeless music (in the biz the term is “non-teleological,” or non-goal-directed). Martynov doesn’t better the master, but I think he does justify the risk he’s taken by making something haunting; one hears the source in dialog with the remaker, in an interplay of love, nostalgia, and a delicately tragic sense.

Those elements come to fullest fruition in Der Abschied (2006), a 40-minute movement that is the big payoff of the program. In this case the work’s source is the last movement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and its program is derived from Martynov’s deathbed vigil with his father, evoking the rise and fall of breath from a soul passing from this life (having experienced almost exactly the same a couple of years back, I can testify that Martynov has done his homework here). Isolated chords and fragmentary progressions from the Mahler fade in and out, stopping, then mysteriously restarting. Periodically the actual Mahler will blossom, in an anguished display of emotion. The effect is a bit like a subterranean spring breaking through the surface of Martynov’s more spare interpretation. It feels also a bit to me as though the actual Mahler is playing all the way through, mostly unheard, and then emerges to remind us of its presence, its reality. The piece is long, it should get tiresome or lethargic, but it doesn’t. Repeated listenings have confirmed that it justifies its dimensions.

I’m not fully convinced of the greatness of this music, but I am convinced of its integrity and seriousness of purpose. And when it seems that so much of contemporary culture is devoted to finding the most trivial and demeaning aspects of itself to celebrate, I am so moved by this work that I don’t want to quibble in the ranking game. It’s real art.

And the Kronos should be saluted for its advocacy. This music obviously touches the players’ souls and is in their blood. And the quintet gives a tender opportunity for them to reunite with their original cellist, Joan Jeanrenaud, adding another dimension of poignancy to the proceedings. Highly recommended.

Review by Robert Carl, FANFARE Magazine

Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud - Music of Vladimir Martynov (2012) [Repost]

Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud - Music of Vladimir Martynov (2012) [Repost]

Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud - Music of Vladimir Martynov (2012) [Repost]

Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud

Kronos Quartet:
David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Jeffrey Zeigler, cello

with special guest
Joan Jeanrenaud, cello (tracks 2, 3)


01. The Beatitudes (5:33)

Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished)
02. Movement I (12:02)
03. Movement II (11:17)

04. Der Abschied (39:55)

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Kronos Quartet / Music Of Vladimir Martynov

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Analyzed: Kronos Quartet / Music Of Vladimir Martynov

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
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Kronos Quartet with Joan Jeanrenaud - Music of Vladimir Martynov (2012) [Repost]