Russian composer Vladimir Martynov (1946- ) migrated through serialism, rock, folk music, electronic music, and early music as composer/player/collector, took a sabbatical from composing to devote his energies to the preservation of Russian Orthodox chant, then wrote specifically for religious services, and finally re-emerged with a new musical philosophy and a style combining Minimalism with appropriations recalling Schnittke’s polystylism.
Kronos opens this album with their commissioned string quartet version of his short 1998 work “The Beatitudes,” presumably originally choral. The rest of the album is devoted to two recent large instrumental works drawing on Romantic compositions.
In Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished) – Kronos reunites with original cellist Joan Jeanrenaud for this recording – Martynov takes Schubert’s spaciously unfolding approach to structure (what Robert Schumann famously dubbed his “heavenly lengths”) and stretches it further to “prolong forever each moment of sound,” specifically inspired by Schubert’s String Quintet in C major. Not that you’d confuse the two!
The string quartet piece Der Abschied, written in memory of Martynov’s father, quotes quite recognizable phrases from “Der Abschied,” the finale of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, extending and mutating them into a time-altering meditation on loss. Fans of Minimalism will find Martynov’s lush permutation of the style distinctive.