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Valentin SILVESTROV (b.1937)
Symphony No.6 (1994-95) [54:20]
SWR Stuttgart Radio SO/Andrey Boreyko
rec. June 2005, Stadthalle, Sindelfingen. co-production ECM/Südwestrundfunk
ECM NEW SERIES ECM 1935 [54:20] 


This symphony, we are told, draws to a conclusion the sequence of sumptuous Mahlerian works that began with the Fourth Symphony and which is voiced most famously in the several times recorded Fifth. One other composer also comes to mind although in overall mood terms he is Silvestrov’s antipodes. That is Allan Pettersson whose visions of ecstasy are always washed over with tears and hard won from inimical human forces. 

The language of this symphony gleams starrily yet thunders, rumbles and groans in protest. The five movement work starts as if caught midway through a great wounded groan and proceeds into slowly thoughtful darkness. It is as if we hear a protesting defiant creature somehow superhuman, pained and serene. Silvestrov is unintimidated by sentimentality as we can hear in a melody close to the film music of John Barry at the start of the long third movement. There is a Bergian luxuriance and romantic nostalgia about the writing (II, 4:32). In the penultimate Intermezzo a misty-eyed exhaustion radiates through for the solo piano amid sighing and wispy string textures. With a steely dazzle the finale opens in an analogue of the first movement with rapture counter-pointed by melodramatic brass-articulated horror. 

The thoughtful notes are by Herbert Glossner and Tatjana Frumkis. I just wish there had been more biographical insight from the composer who is seen in two photographs in the booklet. 

The symphony is dedicated to Virko Baley. 

If, as is claimed, the composer is trying to express a vision of utopia it is a warm and comforting vision made the more enthralling by a tectonic violence which causes the landscape to heave and shudder. 

Rob Barnett 



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