This album includes three works written for Kronos Quartet by the contemporary Russian composer Vladimir Martynov and features a special guest performance from former Kronos cellist Joan Jeanrenaud on a piece the Times of London describes as "something to treasure" and the Los Angeles Times calls a “masterpiece. The performance, exquisitely recorded, is radiant."
Nonesuch Records releases Kronos Quartet’s Music of Vladimir Martynov on January 10, 2012. The album includes three works written or rescored for Kronos by the contemporary Russian composer Vladimir Martynov: The Beatitudes (1998, rescored for Kronos, 2006), Schubert–Quintet (Unfinished) (2009), and Der Abschied (2006). Kronos’ artistic director and founder David Harrington says Martynov’s music “straddles various points of musical history and time; the music seems to me to reflect and absorb humanity in such a beautiful way.”
Born in Moscow in 1946, Martynov was the son of a well-known musicologist and writer. He studied music from a young age and attended the Conservatory before expanding his musical pursuits beyond the traditional classical canon and into folk songs, early music, avant-garde, rock, and electronic music. In 1979, he entered the Spiritual Academy at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, where he worked on preserving and restoring traditional Russian Orthodox chant. He returned to composition in the 1990s with a new style that combined the traditions of American minimalism with the repetitive chant of Russian Orthodoxy.
As Greg Dubinsky writes in the liner notes, Martynov explores the “perspective of the Orthodox Church’s hermetic, ascetic tradition of insight and ecstasy achieved through ceaseless prayer ... In this uninterrupted circular motion, time lacks beginning or end. Through the insistent repetition of a single formula, the mind blocks out the external world ... His goal is to create a music that maintains this pose of enraptured contemplation for as long as possible.” Kronos Quartet has commissioned five works from Martynov, three of which are on this new album.
Kronos requested the arrangement of The Beatitudes (originally written as a choral piece) to close its live-performance program Awakening, which reflects on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Harrington calls the piece “one of the great works of faith in our repertoire.”
Schubert–Quintet (Unfinished) draws from Schubert’s String Quartet in C Major, using its instrumentation of double cellos, which fulfilled Kronos’ request for a piece reuniting them with former Kronos cellist Joan Jeanrenaud. The Quartet’s cellist for 20 years beginning in 1978, Jeanrenaud had not played with the group since 1998 before this recording.
In Der Abschied (The Farewell), which Martyov wrote as a memorial to his father, the composer uses musical repetition to conjure his late father’s labored last breaths. This piece’s musical “mantra” is from Mahler’s Das Lied Von Der Erde (Songs of the Earth), leading Harrington to call it “the string quartet Mahler never wrote.”
Over the course of nearly four decades, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet has commissioned 750 new works, performed thousands of concerts worldwide, released more than 50 recordings, and collaborated with dozens of artists. Working with composers from nearly every corner of the globe, Kronos has created a new repertoire for string quartet. A non-profit organization, the Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association is committed to mentoring emerging musicians and composers and to creating and performing new works, devoting five months of each year to touring. In 2011, the Quartet received two prestigious international honors: the Avery Fisher Prize in New York and the Polar Music Prize in Stockholm, Sweden. No other musician or ensemble has ever won both prizes, let alone in a single year. The Kronos Quartet members are David Harrington and John Sherba, violin; Hank Dutt, viola; and Jeffrey Zeigler, cello.
Produced by Judith Sherman
Recorded December 13–16, 2010, at Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, CA
Engineered by Leslie Ann Jones
Assistant engineer: Dann Thompson
Editing Assistant: Jeanne Velonis
Mastered by Robert C. Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, Portland, ME
Design by Evan Gaffney
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz
Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished) was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and Joan Jeanrenaud by Cal Performances and the Kronos Performing Arts Association. Der Abschied (The Farewell) was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the Settimane Musicali Gustav Mahler Festival.
All compositions published by Vladimir Martynov, administered by RAO.
David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Jeffrey Zeigler, cello
with special guest
Joan Jeanrenaud, cello (tracks 2, 3)