for Clarinet Solo (1966)




Vyacheslav Artyomov (Вячеслав Петрович Артёмов, b.1940, Moscow) studied composition with Nikolay Sidelnikov at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1975, together with Sofia Gubaidulina and Victor Suslin, he founded the “Astrea” ensemble to explore new sound possibilities through improvisation and the use of various kinds of rare folk music instruments (Kholopova 2002, 181). 

Artyomov composed the Sonata No.1 for clarinet solo (in B-flat) in 1966 and dedicated it to clarinetist Rafael Bagdasaryan. As one of Artyomov´s early works, the Sonata No.1 is situated temporarily and stylistically between tradition-oriented modernism and the upcoming “Second Avant-garde” around Denisov. From the perspective of clarinet works from the Soviet period, this move towards avant-garde composition techniques is a clear tendency and marks a breaking point in the way that the instrument was treated. In less than a decade (1968-1976), new clarinetplaying techniques, such as micro-intervals and multiphonics, started to dominate most of the new clarinet compositions, especially the works for clarinet solo. Artyomov dedicated his second Sonata for clarinet solo, Confession (1971), to clarinetist Lev Mikhailov, who was one of the first players to learn and promote the new clarinet techniques in the Soviet Union, enabling and encouraging composers to continue to use them in their works. Artyomov´s compositional output includes various ensemble works with clarinet and a series of compositions for solo clarinet and other woodwind instruments. The Sonata No.1 was published in an album of solo works for clarinet in a Soviet edition, and later in a separate edition in Germany (Artyomov, 1994).

The Sonata No.1 is an appealing composition with a distinctive Fuga a 3 voci as second movement. The total duration of the Sonata No. 1 is approximately 9 minutes. The two movements are played without break, attacca:

1.    Dotted quarter note = 52-56
2.    Eighth note = 98-100 (Fuga a 3 voci)

Video ex.7.1.1: Signal Call (Artyomov, Sonata no. 1, mvt. 1, mm. 1-4)


The first movement opens with a signal-call-like motive, played risoluto, which re-appears in various manifestations throughout the entire movement (Video ex.7.1.1: Signal Call). The atmosphere is wistful, especially through a distinctive descending chromatic melody. This melody shows a certain affinity to orientalism, in the sense of intonation and Russian Folklore, as in the famous clarinet solo in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Hymn to the Sun from the opera The Golden Cocquerel (Video ex.7.1.2: Chromatism).


Video ex.7.1.2: Chromatism (Artyomov, Sonata no. 1, mvt. 1, mm.5-9)


The second movement (Eighth note = 98-100) is a fugue with three voices. Artyomov follows the baroque fugue composition rules in the opening of the movement, introducing the subject first in tonic, then in dominant and again in tonic (Video ex.7.1.3: Fuga). The three lines together create a polyphonic impression, even though it is just one clarinetist performing. It is a challenging task for the performer to shape the dynamic lines of the three voices so that each line remains clearly recognizable. Precise articulation, especially the multitude of accents, support that intention. This short movement develops rapidly, culminating in melodic, fast and voluminous broken chords. Sonata No.1 is a versatile repertoire work, which forms an interesting challenge for the clarinetist especially concerning the mental control of a three-voiced fugue for the solo clarinet.

Video ex.7.1.3: Fuga (Artyomov, Sonata no. 1, mvt. 2, mm.86-92)



Anne Elisabeth Piirainen, clarinet 

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5th doctoral concert "Beyond Borders"

31.05.2018, Helsinki Music Centre