I discovered the Silvestrov Fifth Symphony almost four
years ago in the infancy of CMOTW. I had just been selected by Len Mullenger
as Classical Editor for Music on the Web and was beginning to make contacts
with record companies. Amongst those early contacts was BMG-Melodiya
in Germany. Their catalogue was the home for the so-called 'Musica non
Grata' Russian series which presented music which had been suppressed
in the USSR.
The Symphony's single deep-breathed movement prompts
comparisons with Pettersson's similar structures although Silvestrov
has differing aims. The Silvestrov achieves a mesmerising ecstatic abandon
- a sort of misty nirvana.
It is dedicated to Roman Kofman whose 1980s performance
with the Kiev Conservatoire SO/Roman Kofman can be had on BMG-Melodiya
(74321 49959 2). That performance clearly has great authority. It plays
for 46.52 as against Borejko's 45.49. However neither gives the impression
of hurry. In fact both create that pulse-slowing phantasmal sense of
time suspension. This is crucial to the success of any performance and
links the music to a lineage via Pärt's Cantus to Mahler's
adagietto. The initial atonalities soon give place to a noble
theme on the brass. This rears up in striking beauty over atonal rumblings
and the tinkling of the orchestral piano. It is all voluptuously done;
the theme swelling, rising and bursting in a languorous slow motion
technicolour. The theme branches out in seemingly endless life - a simulacrum
of bubbles rising with infinite and unhurried ease from emerald-lit
ocean depths. The impression is given of an ascent into a great green
country like the planetary realm of C.S. Lewis's 'Out of the Silent
Planet'. This work sustains its interest with transfixing power over
the complete three quarters of an hour.
The two works on this disc share a common expressive
style. The Exegi followed the Fifth Symphony by three or four
years. The music has that same static quality. It is modernistic but
glowingly attractive and does not hide lack of substantial ideas in
a mazed denseness of sound. In the Exegi (with a sung text counselling
truth to the artistic self and indifference to adverse, or any, criticism)
at 13.09 a trombone oration reminds us of the similar dark and noble
role taken by the trombone in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15. Chirruping
woodwind rises steadily like the hazeless bell sounds in Britten's morning
movement in the Grimes interludes.
Megadisc issued this CD in 1998 - the successor to
volume 1 (MDC7842) which includes several cantatas and Ode to a Nightingale.
The company has also issued several CDs of the symphonies of Galina
If you are at all drawn to the diversity of symphonic
expression over the last quarter century you need one or other version
of this Symphony. Your choice is among Megadisc, BMG-Melodiya (with
the special credence lent by Kofman's conducting) or Sony (I have not
heard the Sony disc). I can recommend the Megadisc and its additional
attraction is the substantial Exegi which compares with the significant
but much earlier String Quartet No. 1 and Kitsch-Music on BMG.
As far as I can recall there is no coupling with the Sony version.
Comment from André Purenne
Barnett mentions the Sony recording as being filler-less. There is
a filler, and a good one: the Postludium for piano and orchestra. It
is an excellent record and is quite easily available.