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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

CD REVIEW



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Valentin SILVESTROV (b. 1937)
Symphony No. 5 (1980-82) [46:54]
Postludium – symphonic poem for piano and orchestra (1984) [18:05]
Alexei Lubimov (piano)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/David Robertson
rec. 25-30 January 1995, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin. DDD
SONY CLASSICAL SK 66825 [65:08]


Silvestrov’s Fifth Symphony might well have emerged from Prospero’s island. The music epitomises something rich and strange. Ominous, heavy with threat (trs. 3, 5), dissonant but accessible, dreamy and romantic. Ham-fisted and insensitive but useful parallels include Mahler’s Adagietto, Berg, Griffes’ Pleasure Dome, the film scores of John Barry and the Hollywood 1970s and further enlivened by idyllic evocations of birdsong. A massive orchestra is used and there is an orchestral piano presumably played by Lubimov who is at the centre of things in the similarly ecstatic Postludium. At one point there is a low-key chatter of voices – but very low. This is voluptuously expressive music given spine by the undertow of  gloom. I do not know why it has not made more headway. If there were any justice this would have been played at the BBC Proms but the same could be said of a host of other regrettably neglected works including Hovhaness’s Majnun and Etchmiadzin symphonies, of the Benjamin Dale tone poem  The Flowing Tide, of Ronald Stevenson’s concertos, the oratorios and symphony of Yuri Shaporin and the piano concertos of Nikolai Kapustin.

This Sony-Arkiv re-animation scores over the competition in various areas. Its sound is rich – bathed in warmth yet not smearing detail. Students of the work will find that the version under review is in nine tracks which certainly aids the process of getting to grips with a single span of three quarters of an hour.

ArkivCD now provide notes. The tracks and titles are listed. There’s a matte-finish scan of the front of the original booklet plus the back jewel case insert.

As usual with ArkivCD’s revivals the price is low at $14.99 per disc.

On the other hand there is competition which you can safely choose from on the basis of repertoire. The Sony is the most luminous-sounding recording but neither the deleted BMG Kofman - the first champion of the work in Kiev - nor the current Megadisc by Borejko are anything less than very fine. The key thing is that even timid souls – and I count myself in their company – should make a point of hearing the remarkable Fifth Symphony. It is as much an ikon of the second half of the twentieth century as Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 and the various mystic-religious works of Macmillan and Tavener. The difference is that the Silvestrov is sensuous to the point of saturation rather than devout to the point of asceticism.

Rob Barnett

 


 


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