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Valentin SILVESTROV (b. 1937)
Four Postludes for Piano and String Orchestra [12:40]
Moments of Poetry and Music [6:09]
Three Postludes for piano [5:15]
Epitaph [8:13]
Three Waltzes, Op.54 [3:43]
Two Elegies, Op. 60 [4:48]
Moments of Memory III, six pieces for string orchestra [18:24]
Moments of Memory II, Op.27 [7:38]
Hymn – 2001, for string orchestra [4:51]
Three Waltzes, for piano [5:43]
Alexei Lubimov (piano)
Valentin Silvestrov (piano: Three Waltzes)
Elise Gäbele (soprano)
Musiques Nouvelles/Jean-Paul Dessy
rec. 2008, Dada Studio, Brussels, Belgium

This selection of Silvestrov’s music was recorded in 2008 and focuses on then recent pieces bearing composition dates of 1999-2007. The sequence of Postludes, Homages and Moments invariably manage to concentrate the listener’s ears on their brief, deft drifts of sound, and on the correspondingly arresting moments when greater prominence is vested in the music.

Such is the case with Four Postludes for piano and string orchestra (2004-07), a four-movement work that fuses stasis with melancholy but emerges in a halo of romantic tracery. The slow and the static also inform Epitaph, written for the same forces, but there’s no question that Silvestrov has the means by which to sustain the music’s eight-minute length. Sparseness is not dullness as Moments of Poetry and Music for soprano, piano and string orchestra shows; a poem by Celan that is both brief and elliptical followed by a postscriptum for the string orchestra that manages to sound both inevitable and beautiful.

These are the ways and means throughout the course of the album. Moments that veer off consequently sound the more startling. In Three Postludes for piano, for instance, which he dedicated to Arvo Pärt, a ghostly nineteenth-century salon is evoked before the instalment of greater calm, reflective romanticism and simplicity of means. There is a definably filmic ardour in the first of the Two Elegies, Op.60 of 2005 whilst the Andante that follows neither reflects its ethos nor comments on it; merely unfolds a richer and deeper sense of songful melancholia. Moments of Memory III meanwhile reflects on scenes from his life and each bears a separate dedication. His ability to cast a hypnotic spell is evident here, so too his propensity for the occasional wrong-footing piano postludes. Whether reflecting on the Ave Maria or unveiling a waltz of gentle sadness, he is invariably truly himself. Be careful of the booklet information tough – this is for piano and string orchestra, not just strings.

Not everything convinces. Try as I have, I cannot find the first two movements of Moments of Memory II anything other than utterly soporific, which makes the final movement of the three, a romantic serenade, a pleasure as well as a relief. His brief tributes to Schoenberg, Webern and Berg – full of piano sustain and brief in duration – may attempt to embed the past in the present - or vice versa - but sound too dutiful. His Hymn-2001, dedicated to Kancheli, is lovely and unusually active for Silvestrov, bearing the faintest touches of Mahler.

Throughout, Alexei Lubimov has been the refined and elegant exponent but as a bonus we hear Silvestrov himself in the Three Waltzes, dedicated to Jean-Paul Dessy and recorded at the composer’s home. Presumably this accounts for the idiosyncratic, lute-like and decidedly domestic sound of his piano in these very nineteenth-century pieces.

The notes are succinct and the recording perfectly acceptable. This is not, perhaps, the place to begin a Silvestrov odyssey – the larger-scale works offer more – but this excellently played selection, whilst not offering much by way of aperçu, nevertheless provides contemplation, reflection and focus on concentrated fragments of time.

Jonathan Woolf



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