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January 12, 2012

Music of Vladimir Martynov: New Album Out Now

We’re pleased to announce that Kronos Quartet’s Music of Vladimir Martynov is out now on Nonesuch Records. The album is available on Kronos’ website, and includes an option to purchase a copy signed by Kronos and former Kronos cellist of 20 years Joan Jeanrenaud, who joins the quartet for Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished). You can listen to the full album through January 19th on our website. Unsigned copies of the album are also available from Nonesuch Records, which can ship internationally.

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).

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.

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.” 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 Joan Jeanrenaud. The Quartet’s cellist for 20 years beginning in 1978, Jeanrenaud had not played with the group since 1998 before this recording. She will join them for a performance of Schubert–Quintet (Unfinished) on February 28 at Carnegie Hall.

In Der Abschied (The Farewell), which Martynov 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.”

Music of Vladimir Martynov is available to order now on Kronos’ website, including copies signed by Kronos and Joan Jeanreneaud. Listen to the full album, streaming on our website through January 19.

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