Silvestrov: Bagatelles; Stille Musik; Farewell Serenade; The Messenger; Two Dialogues with an Afterthought; Elegy

COMPOSERS: Silvestrov
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Silvestrov
WORKS: Bagatelles; Stille Musik; Farewell Serenade; The Messenger; Two Dialogues with an Afterthought; Elegy
PERFORMER: Alexei Lubimov (piano); Munich CO/Christoph Poppen
CATALOGUE NO: 476 6178
Released as a 70th birthday tribute to the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, this collection of evocative miniatures inhabits a similarly nostalgic sound world to that of his larger-scale works such as the celebrated Fifth Symphony. In the

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13 Bagatelles for solo piano, performed in a characteristically intimate manner by the composer himself, the prevailing moods are gentle and calm, the contrasts achieved more through textural and melodic inflection than by a drastic variety in tempo.

On a superficial level the ideas, with their obvious allusions to 19th-century music, seem almost trite and predictable, and there is a real danger of boredom setting in given the generally slow speeds of each miniature. Yet somehow the magnetism of Silvestrov’s playing coupled with a superbly vivid recording manages to transcend this potential problem, casting an almost hypnotic spell over the listener.

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For the rest of the disc we return to the composer’s preoccupation with Farewells and Afterthoughts in works for string orchestra and piano which are performed with great sensitivity by the Munich Chamber Orchestra and the charismatic Alexei Lubimov. After the tonal luminosity of the Bagatelles, the piercing dissonances at the opening of the Elegy exert a particularly poignant impact, as does The Messenger where the interaction between the resonances of piano and strings is extremely haunting. Erik Levi