DIVINE OFFERINGS

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Divine Art Records is the best go-to on-line store for CDs that focus on new music by European composers.
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This month they sent us four CD’s: all of them are impressively annotated, impeccably produced, neatly packaged and, most importantly, featuring intriguing music by composers heretofore unbeknownst to us and, I dare say, to the American record collector and concertgoer at large.
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Time constraints prevent me from doing a separate review for each of the four, but, at the end of this preamble you shall have my overall appraisal of all four CDs.
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Where could Vyacheslav Artyomov’s orchestral music be heard? Where would the Irish art songs of Elaine Agnew, Seóirse  Bodley, Ina Boyle, John Buckey, Rhona Clarke and Anne Marie O’Farrell be sung? Where are the enterprising chamber music ensembles that will step out of the box where so much music lies today and perform some of the sonatas for wind instruments of Peter Hope?
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Is the neglect of so much music the fault of those who program concerts? If those who decide what gets played – often the artists themselves – were to program not one more Brahms First in the upcoming symphony concert but Vyacheslav Artyomov’s sprawling, mystical, mold-breaking, mood-setting, mysterious Tristia II (subtitled Fantasy for Piano and orchestra in 11 continuous episodes) and then invite a pianist who would be up for learning the piece to perform it before a public willing to ante up $20 or $50 or $90 for a ticket and that would be willing to sit through nearly 30 minutes of unfamiliar sonorities…If all of that were to happen, what then?
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What goes for symphonic music often goes for chamber music or for vocal recitals.  Very little risk-taking, much middle-of-the-road programming and another nail on the coffin of classical music.
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What is in store for the collector who will not buy digitally but likes to hold the CD in his or her hands and listen to it repeatedly on his sound system and, after listening, replace the CD on a shelf? Will there be CDS and CD players in the next decade or will they go the way of 78’s, LP’s, cassettes and 8-track?
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Our heart goes out to musicians and composers who try to self-produce hand in hand with companies such as Divine Art Records and end up with boxes of unsold CD’s in their basements.
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And that question extends to major artists (whose names will go unmentioned here) whom I have seen seated at tables in the lobbies of concert halls, selling autographed copies of their latest CD.
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The concert music industry is undergoing  a stormy sea change. What looms at the other end of the sea journey no one knows

Wind Blown – Sonatas for wind instruments by Peter Hope. (dda25137)
The background – Peter Hope. Born 1930. Arranger and composer brought up on a music industry that was regrouping after WWII. At first immersed in light music and in the rough and tumble areas of the music industry, he has in the last two decades concentrated on writing larger-scale works .
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The music – Melodic. Bucolic in feeling. Clearly a direct line descendant of the Vaughn-Williams, Fredrick Delius tradition.
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The players – Top notch working musicians. Terrific ensemble players. BBC Symphony…Halle Orchestra…Royal Northern…City of Birmingham…Royal Liverpool…
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Vyacheslav Artyomov music (dda 25143)
Symphony no. 2, “On the Threshold of a Bright World” in 18 continuous episodes; Ave Atque Vale (Hail and Farewell) for solo percussion and orchestra in 9 continuous episodes; Hymn – Ave, Crux Alba (Hail, White Cross)
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The players – National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. Rostislav Shatayevsky, percussion; Helikon Theatre Choir, Yevgeny Ilyin, conductor
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Vyacheslav Artyomov music (dda 25144)
Symphony no. 3, “Gentle Emanation”; Tristia II, Fantasy for piano and orchestra in 11 episodes, with text by Nicolai Gogol.
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The players: Russian National Orchestra, Teodor Currentzis, conductor (Symphony no. 3) ; Vladimir Ponkin, conductor (Tristia II) Mikhail Philippov, reader; Phillip Kopachevsky, piano

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The background: The music in both these CD’s and the compoer deserve wider exposure outside Russia. Praised by compatriot musicians, Mstislav Rostropovich among them, Artyomov was born into a generation that saw the last decade of Stalin, the gradual easing up of restrictions on composers, the arrival of Perestroika and Glasnost and the impact of all of these political changes on the arts.

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The music: Artyomov’s music is mystical, Russian at the core. He is a master of orchestral writing and of unusual instrumentation. Many of his melodies have their roots in old Slavonic chant. A most unusual talent whose day has yet to come insofar as the American concert-going audience is concerned.
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I am Wind on Sea – Contemporary vocal music from Ireland (msv28558) – An eclectic collection of songs for female voice and piano by Irish composers, Ina Boyle, Elaine Agnew,  Seóirse Bodley, Rhona Clarke and John Buckley.
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The musicians: Mezzo-soprano Aylish Kerrigan absolutely owns the material and has a solid, sensitive partner in Dearbhla Collins.
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The results: A sensational discovery of gems from  Irish art song writers – Ina Boyle, among the older and Elaine Agnew and Anne Marie O’Farrell, among the contemporary.
The texts come from a great tradition of Celtic and English poetry and literature – Walter de la Mare…Christina Rosetti…James Joyce…
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Hope springs eternal thanks to Divine Art Records, which not only sells but produces and distributes close to 400 titles through its several subsidiaries, including Metier, Diversions, Athene, Dunelm and Heritage Media.
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Here’s a great big thanks to the good people at Divine Art Records for keeping the faith.
большое спасибо! Go raibh míle maith agat! Thank you very much, Divine Art Records!
Rafael de Acha

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