Yuliya Yevdokimova. Artyomov - Requiem

This composition does not merely agitate, it shakes, disturbs the soul, pulls out of the world of everyday human emotions, it makes you shudder, it torments and at the same time clarifies, cleanses your heart. For a long time it does not leave your memory and makes you think about music, about yourself, your place in the life, and its moral principles.

The composer dedicated this work to “martyrs of long-suffering Russia” and created, in proportion to the scope of the tragedy, a huge epopee in sound, stately monument with all details carefully elaborated, every touch thoroughly painted, and at the same time immense. As a grandiose pictorial canvas this composition may be for a long time “examined” closely, one may go deeply into every musical detail amazing by its meaning and significance. However, one may enjoy it from a longer distance, and then it shocks by its stateness, by the might of general conception, dynamics of emotional development, great power of impression.

Requiem... In this case it is not at all a metaphor but that unique genre in the history of musical culture which embraces a boundless scope of historical memory – all world collisions, catastrophes, crucifixions, hope and despair, resignation, forgiveness, and salvation, and which has taken on a universal significance for mankind. Requiem is a confession before humanity. Composer’s addressing to Requiem meant for him establishing connection of Russian tragedy with tragedies of the world history, approaching to spiritual values, final insight of which comes only on the verge of life and death.

At the same time the composer treats the traditional text of Requiem differently, he projects it on the events of Russian history, reads it as an eye-witness. The canonical text has become a generative impulse, a source of pictures and images emerging in the composer’s creative mind. The usual treatment of many sections is changed, e.g. “Kyrie eleison”, “Dies irae”, “Tuba mirum”, “Benedictus”. The text is imbued with new meanings close to our common experience, the plot has gained a particular emotional strength. In such a way the complex, multilayer conception of the composition is born where all musical images accord with the author’s individual programme and at the same time correspond to eternal regulations of the funereal ritual.

Requiem begins with a question, brief and ardent. What will be the answer? The effulgent light of “Sanctus” or a farewell song of the last clarification “Requiem aeternam”? But before that the composer guides us along the difficult way of empathy with the tragedy, the way of abysses of despair and ascents of hope, infinite grief extending from confused wail to a laid-back prayer, from the sharp individual pain to the world mourning.

I invite you to follow the composer on this way of emotional collisions!

Dreary, strange, dim perplexity (“Requiem aeternam”). It is not at all “everlasting rest”, it is rather anxiety, inexplicable and fixed one. A number of orchestral parts sound pastoso, without any evident individual impulses. Indeed, the violin solo is questioning – but whom and what about? Whether it addresses to its soul or to the world covered by a shroud of anguish?

The anxious state is sharpening (“Kyrie eleison”). Perplexity is increasing as the sound of a gradually stretched string. And against this background fixed, persistently pursuing ostinato-like repetitions arise, disappear, and flare up again. Thus signs, symbols, topics, faces form a strange and terrible interlacing in the nooks of a disarrayed mind... Remote bells ring importunately calling nowhere, the whole picture becomes obliterated, a new one flares up (“Dies irae”), and the tragedy starts to acquire attributes of reality, assuming the material form of aggressive consolidated evil. One can hear well steps of strained march motion, a scansion of mass declamation. It is the unity in evil, mass madness. The evil is not personified but with that it is not at all foreign one (like it is, for example, in the Seventh Symphony by D. Shostakovich). The evil is inside ourselves, meaningless and destructive one, throwing, after all that has been committed, into astonishment, into benumbed shock. And so that very “Day of wrath” (“Dies irae”) displays the quite different facet - the organ is freezing hearts, solo parts are moaning gently, and a sorrowful violin is questioning, unrequitedly questioning. Really, is that all about us? Such a treatment of “Dies irae” is yet unknown in the history of music.

The stupor gives place to open, loud outburst of despair (“Tuba mirum”) – mass despair, growing to ecstasy and dying away desperately in the resonant emptiness, in the infinite icy space. Out of it arise nearly imperceptibly (“Recordare”), as if gradually acquiring their shape, flesh, and power, voices of prayer, sorrowful lyrical outpourings. Single voices are lost and hopeless. And the evil is nearby, fierce and mighty (“Confutatis”). Once again terrifying plaints are heard, a crazy scanned declamation of “Dies irae”. As a call out of a roaring abyss, a blazing inferno these hardly distinct human plaints are absorbed by a turbulent mass of evil sweeping away everything it meets. Here is the turning point of the composition. “Lacrimosa” opens a new page. The melody of violin evokes gentle sorrow making the hearts ache. Remote bells herald of a coming peace. The prayer for the repose of the dead (“Domine Jesu Christe”) sounds as a great symbol of rest in the eternally vain, never getting quiet world. The mourning rite is full of solemn detachment, and outside it the world is rushing and going mad.

The sorrow is shifted from the “objective” form of expression to a deeply personal one. “Hostias et preces” is the movement where every separate part is moaning. The universal human tragedy is interpreted through the prism of individual soul. And finally, there emerges the first outlet. “Sanctus” leads away to the realm of Јindescribable light“. It leads away bit by bit, music is clarifying just before us. Moaning intonations of “Recordare”, “Lacrimosa”, “Hostias” scored for clarified timbres of children’s voices get free of a burden of passions, become trustful and timid naivety, dissolve imperceptibly in the shining play of pure sound colours.

One circle is passed. “Benedictus” opens the second one. It begins with change from imaginary, phantom light to quiet and meek despair full of prayer and hope. Music is growing more and more bright, showing affecting beauty of intonation (“Agnus Dei”). The evil intrudes for the last time (“Libera me”) with the culmination which has joined together confusion of “Kyrie eleison”, despair of “Tuba mirum”, terrible horror of “Confutatis”, and surpassed them all. It is the future tragedy of the “doomsday”. And here the summit is reached – “Requiem aeternam”, everlasting cleansing song of a rare beauty. “In Paradisum” is the epilogue. It lacks a character or a personal mind; it is a fictitious picture exempt from all human passions, an “absolute truth” of good and light.

Such is to my view the most general outline of philosophical and emotional “plot” of the composition. The scope of associations this music contains is unlimited, as is the historical projection of its “subject matter”, as is infinite, compared to the earthly temporal measures, the Requiem’s “plot”. Everyone may hear it in one’s own way.

Besides, the very music rich in semantic symbols encourages such a multiplicity of perception. One of those symbols, the Russian prayer for the repose of the dead in “Domine Jesu” is that “specific” particular pointing out of the time and scene of action. Ringing bells are imbued with symbolism, almost in every movement they appeal to the historical memory of the listener, and every time they introduce a new, particular art meaning – now it’s half-real echo, now alarm bell, now it’s knell, now reminiscence... The violin solo as a symbol is responsible for the individual voice, it is that very voice which is unrequitedly questioning in the first movement, mourning in “Lacrimosa”, rushing with a prayer in “Benedictus”, echoing in dialogue to the heavenly farewell song in “Requiem aeternam”. Intonations of minor second used by the composer very often are also full of semantic meanings. One can feel the succession of Artyomov’s Requiem to the best works of this genre in the world music, its deep root connection to the Bach’s music. The illusion of infinite sound space, that of cosmic scale of “action” produces its own associative analogies, namely, with the Scriabin’s cosmos. The effulgent light of “Sanctus” makes one recall some fragments of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh by Rimsky-Korsakov. And the very conception of composition based on expiation, forgiveness, and rising of spirit in the face of eternity, is it not a healing conception of all great Russian art!

And at the same time it looks extremely modern, with a dynamic contact between various musical-semantic layers, between intonational harmonious means referring to musical experience of the listener and united by the accurate dramaturgic idea.

One more thing is worth mentioning – the purity of musical language of the composition, the beauty as the initial ethical premise of all means, all methods of expression. Therefore influence of the music is so strong. It is always beautiful. No extreme means of affecting audience, no pressure, no excesses are applied. This is, indeed, a classic conception of art! The audience is amazed by deepness of comprehension of meanings, accuracy of chosen musical technique, genuineness of change of psychological states, lively and sincere intonation.

Among which masterpieces may this composition pretend for a place? Is it in the same rank with requiems – by Mozart, Verdi, Berlioz, Brahms, Dvorak? Or perhaps, it is closer to historical epics by Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov? Or to symphonic dramas by Shostakovich? The future will probably give an answer. However, you, the listener, don’t pass by. Perhaps, you’ll hear in this composition your voice, your fate? The more so, before you is the musical memorial of the tragedy of Russian people.

©  Yuliya Yevdokimova.  1988