Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Reviews from other months
Two pieces from Kitsch Music (1977) - Irina Plotnikova - rec live 1986
String Quartet No. 1 (1974) - Lysenko 4tet - rec 1980
Symphony No. 5 (1982) - Kiev Conservatoire SO/Roman Kofman. - Rec 1986  BMG MELODIYA 74321 49959 2 [71.00]




Silvestrov is one of those newer wave Ukrainian composers who have had some international success; so much so that the fifth symphony has been recorded by Sony. I have not heard the Sony disc so regrettably cannot make a comparison. However, reportedly, the temperature on the Sony is a degree or two chillier than on the present disc.

First of all to the other pieces on this disc. The two pieces from Kitsch Music are not as you might expect. Rather than cheap brummagem copies we get two essays for solo piano in a style ripplingly close to a Chopin Nocturne. The second is Schubertian. These are extremely accessible and sincere pieces following a line similar to the classical era facsimiles produced by George Rochberg.

The string quartet is quite an avant-garde piece opening in meditative style like Schubert's string quintet but soon sliding off into modernism: high notes, distant screams, gauzy moth-wings, voile curtains and a stroll around the clammy marches between sleep and waking.

The fifth symphony is in one mammoth movement; in that sense similar to the huge symphonic structures of Allan Pettersson to whose music there is a passing resemblance if one ignores the Swede's tendency toward the depressive. The symphony starts in mild modernism with shuddering and shaking but this resolves into a simple theme of great and slow moving tenderness. The theme and the treatment is rather Mahlerian - in fact it seems to recall the Adagietto from Mahler 5. Shadows and echoes of beauty move in somnambular trance-like motion; self-absorbed nostalgia sustained over a long span. The Brucknerian pace and sense of time cross-reference with other works: Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915; Pettersson Symphony No. 7 and the nostalgic themes of film composer Ennio Morricone. This music returns towards the close and reminded me quite spontaneously of the strangely fragrant descriptions of the supernatural beings in C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet.

While essentially simple the symphony is richly voluptuous and is lit by a colossal beauty-centred candlepower. Glorious.

Recommended as one of the peaks of the Musica Non Grata series.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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