Victor Hugo’s Blank Page

by Sergey Akhunov

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Sven B. Schreiber This double album demonstrates in its one-and-a-half hours the genius of contemporary classical composer Sergey Akhunov from Kiev in the realm of instrumental chamber music, which can basically be described as expressionist with a high degree of traditional tonality. The seven works presented here, some of them divided into a couple of movements, are written for several kinds of chamber ensembles, ranging in size from duo to string orchestra with soloists, and are performed with abounding virtuosity by various excellent musicians. Favorite track: In Memory of a Musician.
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about

Contemporary music often likes to flaunt its exclusive appeal. “Look at me!” it seems to say to listeners, “See how dynamic I am, how refined and complex, bearing my universal message for the select and enlightened few.”

Sergey Akhunov, on the other hand, calls on us to stop and listen to the music that lives inside all of us, for there is nothing more vital or more wonderful. The composer allows these natural vibrations to resonate with the notes on the page in simple and seemingly unsophisticated ways. From the opening bars, there’s something familiar about his beautiful pieces; something you can trust immediately and wholeheartedly. You want to listen again and again, to play the music yourself so that you can truly get under its skin, to delve into the score and feast on the interweaving voices as if they were the features of a familiar, much-loved face. Soon, you recognize the truth behind the apparent simplicity of his work, and then you give yourself up wholly and willingly to the beauty of the music.

For all its contemporary relevance, it is from the simple, timeless concepts of love, compassion and a desire to live that Sergey Akhunov’s music draws its inspiration. Discovering his work has been one of the most remarkable experiences of my professional and creative life in recent years, and I have no doubt that it will feature in our repertoire for many years to come.

Ilya Ioff, translated by EclecticTranslations
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Sotto Voce

Recent years have seen a considerable growth in stature of the music of Sergey Akhunov. His works enjoy high demand from concert halls to festivals; and new premieres, played to packed out venues, are invariably the subject of loud praise. It is considered an honour by the greatest musicians of Moscow and St Petersburg to be among the first to perform Akhunov’s latest compositions.

Akhunov’s musical expression has found its voice in both instrumental and choral chamber music, genres that give rise to untrammelled creative freedom and which have produced a number of important compositions. The double album Victor Hugo’s Blank Page, produced by Raisa Fomina and released on the FANCYMUSIC imprint, boasts some of Akhunov’s key instrumental works to date, performed and recorded by a top ensemble of gifted musicians.

It was through my old friend Rustam Komachkov, a wonderful cellist who specializes in Akhunov’s music, that I was introduced to Sergey. It was a most unforgettable first meeting: a few years ago, Rustam and I decided to hold an evening in memory of his father, the great double bass soloist Rifat Komachkov, at the Moscow Conservatory.

We had spent some time carefully deliberating the programme, when we realized that the evening would be amiss without a new chamber work composed for the same instruments as Schubert’s Trout Quintet. This had been one of Rifat Komachkov’s favourite pieces, which he performed time and again with some of the world’s greatest pianists, chief among them Sviatoslav Richter. That’s how the quintet was composed – Sergey named it Quintet in Memory of a Musician.

This new style made quite the impression on me – I was hearing incredibly beautiful, delicate, vulnerable music, its intonations reminiscent of the Romantic composers of the 19th century. We invited Alexander Trostiansky, Sergei Poltavsky and Ilya Komachkov to perform the new work. Passion infused the rehearsals, inspiring us towards triumphant premiere. Leonid Desyatnikov, for whom I have the utmost respect, and Ingeborga Dapkunaite, with her exquisite ear for music, were among those present in the audience. They praised the Quintet very highly, thus fuelling my burgeoning desire to continue working with the composer.

So Sergey and I went further still, discussing an idea for the 175th year of Tchaikovsky’s birth. I wanted the decaying, pulsating rhythms of the final bars of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony to appear in the coda of this future composition. Sergey agreed, and put our idea into practice in his own remarkable way: the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio, a composition for our Levitan Festival in Plyos. The elegant simplicity, clarity and purity of the music as it faded away into silence once more left a deep impression on the audience. At the premiere, Aylen Pritchin, Rustam Komachkov, and I performed the Trio twice in a row – the audience wasn’t prepared to let go of it so quickly. I believe any new piece of music should be welcomed into the world this way; but sadly it only happens very rarely.

But that is not all that Sergey Akhunov has given me: I asked him to write a piano composition for an evening in memory of Bella Akhmadulina at the Pyotr Fomenko Workshop Theater, using notes that spelled out the great poet’s name: BELLA. There would be just three notes, B flat (B), E, and A (la), which gave life to a wondrous and restrained work of art.

The Quintet in Memory of a Musician and the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio won instant renown in musical circles. Many of my extremely talented fellow musicians started performing Akhunov’s pieces, and new works began to be commissioned. Sergey’s masterful piece Der Erlkönig, inspired by Schubert’s famous Lied of the same name, was written for violist and conductor Maxim Rysanov. Polina Osetinskaya is releasing an album of piano music entitled Sketches. Julia Igonina is performing Akhunov’s recreation of The Four Seasons for violin and chamber orchestra, conducted by maestro Alexander Rudin. Aylen Pritchin and Andrey Gugnin are taking on Three Pieces for Violin and Piano. His music is being performed by the New Russian Quartet, Evgeny Rumyantsev and Grigory Krotenko, while Natalia Ardasheva, Yuri Polubelov, Dmitry Shchelkin, Sergei Poltavsky and of course Rustam Komachkov continue their close collaboration with the composer. This illustrious cohort of Moscow musicians was recently joined by the St Petersburg violinist Ilya Ioff and his chamber ensemble Divertissement. The artistry of most of these musicians is in full evidence on this album.

Sergey Akhunov is enjoying a welcome surge of creative energy. The extraordinary levels of productivity he is able to maintain in the quiet Moscow courtyards close to Chistye Prudy is a cause for delight, and worthy of great admiration. I am certain that his new album, Victor Hugo’s Blank Page, will find the devoted, discerning, and sensitive listener it deserves.

Alexei Goribol, translated by EclecticTranslations

credits

released October 12, 2018

Composed by: Sergey Akhunov

Mixed, mastered by: Alexander Volkov

Cover photo by: Sergey Krasin
Produced by: Raisa Fomina
Executive producer: Sergey Krasin

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FANCYMUSIC Moscow, Russia

FANCYMUSIC is a record label focused on contemporary new music recordings. FANCYMUSIC is a broad platform for a wide variety of contemporary new music composed by different russian musicians. FANCYMUSIC is also a platform on which newer names may be encountered. ... more

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