Silvestrov: Metamusik; Postludium

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COMPOSERS: Silvestrov
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Metamusik; Postludium
PERFORMER: Alexei Lubimov (piano); Vienna RSO/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 472 081-2
Is it missing the point to remark that much of Valentin Silvestrov’s music takes an unconscionable time a-dying? Yes, I see it’s all meant to be farewells and echoes, unassuageable regret for a lost and now deracinated Romantic tonality. A big bang, then an eternity – well, 47 minutes, in Metamusik – of tinklings and tinkerings with the fading resonance. He’s gifted, no question, and a wan beauty and poignancy abound. But isn’t there something fatally self-indulgent about this endless Abschied, with its cod-tonal quasi-pastiches? Or is the music meant to outstay its welcome, rouse us to the resolve it fails to show? And is that really an immensely slowed-down version of ‘Moon River’ around 36 minutes in?

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Metamusik, subtitled a ‘symphony’ for piano and orchestra (this has to be symphony as in ‘sounding together’, not ‘organic growth’ or ‘large-scale integration of contrasts’), dates from 1992. Postludium, written eight years earlier and described as a ‘symphonic poem’ for the same combination, does much the same sort of thing, but in less than half the time and, for my money, much more effectively. Perhaps not much more happens in it, but there’s a greater range of texture, and the echoes and ghosts of half-remembered ideas seem better able to engage the mind and sympathy. Lubimov, for whom Metamusik was written, expounds the sometimes intricate piano parts with ideal sensitivity: his performance of Postludium easily outclasses that of Mykola Suk, conducted by the work’s dedicatee Virko Baley, on Russian Disc. Calum MacDonald