Vocal and chamber music by a post-Soviet master of poetry and stillness.
Born in 1937, the Ukrainian Valentin Silvestrov may be counted alongside his contemporaries Arvo Pärt and Giya Kancheli as among the most profoundly spiritual composers from the Soviet republics. Silvestrov, however, distinguishes himself from those contemporaries by the sharpness of his ears and the freshness of his thinking.
Silvestrov’s Fifth Symphony achieved a cult status among dissident Soviets and then in the West through the gradual dissemination of a recording made in 1976. The loving adieus of his later music have come about through an immersion in the Western avant-garde, with Webern as the fountain-head, that unlike Pärt he has not so much disowned as refined. This is music perpetually on the threshold of saying goodbye, wholly in love with the Viennese classics and yet regretfully aware that their world is irrecoverable.
The 10-minute Epitaph for cello and piano is one of several works Silvestrov composed in memory of his wife Larissa, who died in 1999. The Hymn of 2001 dedicated to Kancheli is significant and touching out of all proportion to its brevity: according to the composer, ‘all melodic content from my other compositions can also be found here. A rest does not only constitute a lack of sound, but is also a state of retardation and paralysis or a suspension of time. In early music, there was an occasional need for silence, but here it is a fundamental feature.’
This new album also contains some first recordings. Principal among them is the song-cycle Moments of Poetry and Music, setting a text by Paul Celan in Russian translation. Made live at a concert in Brussels, the recording is led by the pianist Alexei Lubimov, a longstanding friend of Silvestrov and authoritative interpreter of his music.
In the mid 70’s Valentin Silvestrov, one of the foremost composers of the Russian Avant-Garde, made a radical change in his artistic direction. He returned to the past, the “innocent” world of a Schubert song, a Chopin Nocturne or a Schumann Albumblatt, a “metaphorical’ style, as if barely touching the listener’s memory, so that the music plays inside the conscience of the listener, as if his memory was singing this music itself”.
The repertoire on this new recording includes a choral work, works for string orchestra, a work for piano and string and piano solo works: music of a haunting beauty and melancholy, touching deep lying chords in the human soul.
Performed by famous pianist Alexei Lubimov, specialist in this repertoire and a close acquaintance of the composer, soprano Elise Gäbele and the Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles conducted by Jean-Paul Dessy. The excellent liner notes are written by Tatjana Frumkis.