Valentin Silvestrov’s output has been on my to-hear shortlist
- actually quite a long page - ever since, in the late 1990s, I heard his
Fifth Symphony. I was not likely to resist hearing the present selection of
his piano music.
The same BMG Melodiya
disc that offered the ecstatic psychedelia of the Fifth
Symphony also included some solo piano pieces in a strangely parodic Chopin
style. In any event they were at no point anywhere near the surreal
undulations and eruptive dream visions of that symphony.
is a cycle of seven piano pieces with two waltzes
enclosing the remaining five. There are two affecting
one at a fairly quick tempo, a gracious Fairy
à la Medtner, a liquid pearlescent Idyll
fancifully meditative Prelude
placed penultimate in the cycle. This
is all in a settled late-romantic style with nostalgia at play among lucid
textures. Silvestrov invests in the power of gentle ingratiation rather than
cliff edge passion. In general this music is written in styles that will be
familiar if you are at all attuned to the piano works of Schubert, Schumann,
Chopin and Brahms. It occasionally strikes backwards in time to Mozart. What
we hear is gentle and quiet: undulating and moonlit. This is music apt to
disorientate those who expect modern music to inveigh against the fates with
angularity, dissonance, temperamental dramatics and percussive assaults.
It is all played and recorded with close and calmingly fervent
engagement. Silvestrov's surprising but pleasing commitment is to a
vocabulary chronologically distant from the predominance of the twentieth
century, let alone the twenty-first. If he occasionally sounds briefly like
Einaudi it is only to remind us that once we listen for more than a couple
of minutes Silvestrov is not a minimalist. In this context he is just a
composer, one strand of whose creativity is inextricably in thrall to a
style that, while familiar, serves his expressive needs better than any
other. It is one dimension of the man.
Silvestrov seems well served by Elisaveta Blumina whose playing drew
from the composer the words '70 minutes happiness set against 1000 years of
misery'. The Two Waltzes are dedicated to Elisaveta Blumina.
The useful programme note is by Tatjana Frumkis.