Silvestrov: Nostalghia; Sonata No. 1; Two Dialogues with an Epilogue; Three Postludes; Three Waltzes etc

COMPOSERS: Silvestrov
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Silvestrov
WORKS: Nostalghia; Sonata No. 1; Two Dialogues with an Epilogue; Three Postludes; Three Waltzes etc
PERFORMER: Jenny Lin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.229
Valentin Silvestrov’s music can beguile, or exasperate. Alongside works of passionate lament like his Requiem for Larissa there are others where the habitual stance of weary, alienated regret, often sustained to near-interminable length, raises existential nostalgia to hitherto unimaginable levels of tedium. At least the works for piano (with its built-in decay) that Jenny Lin performs here are all quite short, mostly in fact from the present decade, which Silvestrov calls his ‘Bagatelle period’. Yet listen to the disc at one sitting, and they come to resemble an almost autistic music, trapped in abstracted contemplation of the melancholy to be wrung from vagrant shards of memory.

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The title track, Nostalghia, sets the mood – piece after piece plays fitfully with simple tonal phrases, in mostly slow tempos and harmony that has been leached of all direction. There are homages to or dim memories of Schubert, Chopin, Wagner, the Second Viennese trinity; ghosts of waltzes, ghosts of jazz, even in Der Bote, a spectral 18th-century sonatina pastiche. It’s all floaty, insubstantial, swaddled in the sustaining pedal’s penumbra of resonance, dreamlike. And mostly desperately sad, though the Three Postludes dedicated to Lin are delicate and whimsical. But despite playing and recorded sound that are always tremulously beautiful, the doodling, noodling nature of many of these pieces does try the patience. Calum MacDonald