Friday, May 25, 2012

CCC 032 - Valentin Silvestrov

Russian composer Valentin Silvestrov is next in our Consonant Classical Challenge. Listening to Silvestrov's music today, one might be surprised to hear that he was part of the Kiev avant-garde movement of the 1960's and his work was ignored in the Soviet Union.

Silvestrov eventually achieved fame (in the West), and is a world-renowned composer today. In 1970 he dramatically changed to a more post-romantic style. As Silvestrov says, "My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists."

Audiences who enjoy Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" should easily relate to Silvestrov's "Epitaph for piano and strings." While differing in style, the long, evocative lines and the underlying emotion of the music is the same.

Perhaps Silvestrov's highest-regarded work is his fifth symphony, titled 1937 Kyiv Ukraine. There's an autumnal quality to the music, as if Silvestrov was saying goodbye to the late Romantic aesthetic. Since that work was premiered in 1982, though, he's gone on to write more in his unique old/new style that belies that notion.

Quiet Music for String Orchestra is an aptly named work. Like much of Silvestrov's music it invites quiet contemplation as it slowly unfolds. Silvestrov's lush harmonies are not quite conventional, but quite appealing and beautiful, as this work illustrates.

Valentin Silvestrov has an impressive catalog of music. It includes eight symphonies, two requiems, two string quartets and many other works for chamber orchestra, chamber ensembles and individual instruments. He's well-respected in Europe, and his music is loved by audiences on the continent. I think concert-goers in America would be, too, if only orchestras would program it. Silvestrov claims to not compose new music, but it certainly sounds new to my ears.

Recommended Recordings:

Valentin Silvestrov: Symphony No.5 / Postludium

Silvestrov: Dedication; Post scriptum

Valentin Silvestrov: Silent Songs

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