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
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 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.