Silvestrov: Leggiero, pesante: Cello Sonata; String Quartet No. 1; Three Postludia; Hymn 2001

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COMPOSERS: Silvestrov
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Leggiero, pesante: Cello Sonata; String Quartet No. 1; Three Postludia; Hymn 2001
PERFORMER: Rosamunde Quartet; Silke Avenhaus, Valentin Silvestrov (piano), Maacha Deubner (soprano)
CATALOGUE NO: 461 898-2
Gentle, nostalgic, deeply disturbed, most of Valentin Silvestrov’s music is imbued with the spirit of postlude, of aftermaths and farewells. Renouncing Western ideals of goal-directed development, he has increasingly cultivated a language of profound melancholic lyricism and incantatory stasis, a sense of the magical and of an irrecoverable past. These works enact a kind of circular journey through an aural landscape, littered with fragments of tradition, shards of song. Sometimes the result has great elegiac intensity, as in the First String Quartet of 1974 and the first Postludium for piano trio with soprano (1981), which is a kind of requiem for Shostakovich (comparisons with Górecki’s Good Night seem justified). At others, as when the composer himself sits at the keyboard to deliver the sub-cod-late-Beethoven Adagio which is Hymn 2001, one wonders whether some of this post-modern profundity isn’t good old-fashioned doodling.

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The Cello Sonata has been recorded (more plangently than here) by Ivan Monighetti and Alexei Lubimov on Erato, the First String Quartet and the second Postludium on an Etcetera disc by the Lysenko Quartet. In these latter cases the new performances, under Silvestrov’s supervision, are palpably more focused and atmospheric, while Postludia I and III seem not to be otherwise available (the theme of the latter reappears in the Cello Sonata). An interesting first release in what is billed as a series devoted to this poetic Ukrainian individualist. Calum MacDonald