“Discovering the name of composer Iosif Andriasov on the Internet, several years ago, came as a real surprise to me.
I had previously taken interest in other musicians who had been praised by Dmitri Shostakovich, such as Lokshin, Bunin, Wajnberg, Tischchenko and others. Oddly enough, now that Shostakovich had finally been recognized in France as one of Russia’s great, not much attention was given to those younger composers he appreciated, probably because our musical world expected them to be gifted epigones of their famous elder. It is our loss, since there are indeed a number of beautiful pieces by either of them.
However, in the case of Andriasov, it was different. I was not aware of his existence. Reading about his life and music, I realized that he had never compromised with dictatorship, but also that his sound universe was more independent than that many of his better-known Russian contemporaries, and notably remote from Shostakovich’s style.
Since I had been tirelessly exploring the symphonic repertoire from all parts of the world for twenty years, I was intrigued to see that Andriasov had composed three symphonies. The Second belongs to his more elaborate and complex scores, it also bears a number of relatively modern, daring features. Yet, as I found out later, it is very much Andriasov’s world: vivid invention, colorful contrasts of tempers, timbres, textures, but surprisingly balanced and harmonious, and in the midst of all this whirlpool, something of a paradise lost, melodic patterns reminiscent of ancient, primeval times, the youthful nostalgia of a past which might not even have existed. There is a deeply Russian character, almost timeless, but fresh and new, individual and enticing. Much more recently, I had the pleasure to become acquainted with musicologist Marta Andriasova, Iosif’s spouse, as well as with his son, pianist and composer Arshak Andriasov. They are tireless promoters of Iosif Andriasov’s legacy and have the burning, infectious desire to share its beauty and depth with the world. The Musical Sketch is a short, apparently simple but marvelously delicate piece, which takes on different shades, different personalities really according to its instrumental variants. One only needs to compare the versions for flute or for viola. Both share, of course, the same purity of inspiration, warm harmonic clarity tinged with light sadness. The flute version brings its pastoral fragility and vigor; the viola version is deeper, more serene and soulful.
Every single piece by Iosif Andriasov is well worth immersing oneself in. It is obvious that performers revel in playing it, which is hardly surprising. This music is rooted in profound values, unflinching beliefs, but it also emanates from a vibrant soul and what could only have been a deeply good human being. It combines Slavic melancholy with Armenian allure and wisdom. It is slightly painful because it expresses the fugacity of time and happiness, but it is also soothing, comforting. It is free, free of bombast, and confident enough to never try to demonstrate anything. When it is playful and virtuosic, it is less ironic than witty and generous.
It has to be hoped that Iosif Andriasov’s music shall gain a foothold in the repertoire. It is genuine, refined, eloquent and life-affirming.”