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Valentin SILVESTROV (b.1937)
Piano Works
Naive Musik (1954-55 rev 1993) [26:36]
Der Bote (The Messenger), for piano (1996-7) [7:30]
Waltzes (2), Op. 153 (2009) [4:25]
Pieces (4), Op. 2 (2006) [9:01]
Bagatelles (2), Op. 173 (2011) [3:34]
Kitsch-Musik für Fortepiano (1977) [14:52]
Elisaveta Blumina (piano)
rec. 11-13 Oct 2011, Siemensvilla, Berlin-Lankwitz, Germany. DDD
World première recordings: Bagatelles, Waltzes, Naïve Musik
GRAND PIANO GP639 [65:58]

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.
 
Naive Musik is a cycle of seven piano pieces with two waltzes enclosing the remaining five. There are two affecting Nocturnes,one at a fairly quick tempo, a gracious Fairy Tale à la Medtner, a liquid pearlescent Idyll and a 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.
 
Rob Barnett