Lechner and Vesterman perform Silvestrov

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COMPOSERS: Silvestrov
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Silvestrov
WORKS: Three Pieces; Elegy; 8.VI. 1810…to R.A.Sch.’s Birthday; Moments of Silence and Sadness; Abendserenade; Augenblicke einer Serenade; Lacrimosa; 25.X.1893…in memoriam P.I.Tch.; Waltz of the Alpine Bells
PERFORMER: Anja Lechner (cello, tam-tam), Agnès Vesterman (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 481 5692

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Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov presents a comopsitional tour de force in this intriguing programme. Admittedly, the parameters which Silvestrov employs here are relatively limited with a predilection for disjunct wisps of sound using harmonics, nostalgic disconnected melodies sometimes alluding to a long forgotten 19th-century ‘Song without Words’ and gently strumming guitar-like pizzicato broken chords. Since dynamic levels rarely rise above mezzo‐forte, with quite a few pregnant moments of silence to boot, there is every chance for the listener to switch off. And yet this musical concoction somehow casts a magical spell, drawing you into the intimacy of Silvestrov’s musical language and holding your attention throughout the disc.

Undoubtedly the extraordinary rapport that exists between Anja Lechner and Agnès Vestermann plays a considerable role in all this. What Lechner and Vestermann achieve in the works for two cellos, such as Three Pieces, Serenades and the homages to Schumann and Tchaikovsky, is a well-nigh perfect synchronicity of ensemble coupled with an almost improvisatory delivery of melody that sounds as if from one player and one instrument.

Of the pieces for solo cello, the Elegy, which also includes the notable introduction of two tam- tams at salient points in the music, is especially mesmeric, as is Moments of Silence and Sadness composed for and dedicated to Lechner. But perhaps the most moving musical experience of all is the Waltz of the Alpine Bells – an exquisite dream- like miniature with fragmentary sounds that dissolve and then disappear into the ether.

Erik Levi