Valentin Silvestrov: Hieroglyphen der Nacht

Anja Lechner, Agnès Vesterman

Released in time for the great Ukrainian composer’s 80th birthday on September 30, Hieroglyphen der Nacht features Valentin Silvestrov’s music for solo violoncello and for two cellos. German cellist Anja Lechner has had a long association with Silvestrov, first documented on the Grammy-nominated leggiero, pesante in 2001. Here she plays, alone, Augenblicke der Stille und Traurigkeit (of which she is the dedicatee), Lacrimosa, Walzer der Alpengöckchen, and Elegie (which calls for her to play both cello and tamtams). Lechner is joined by French cellist Agnès Vestermann, a frequent duo partner, to play Drei Stücke (dedicated to both musicians), 8.VI. 1810…zum Geburtstag R.A. Schumann, Zwei Serenaden, and 25.X.1893…zum Andenken an P.I. Tschaikowskij. As so often with Silvestrov, the compositions often take the form of metaphorical conversations with composers of the past and the present. Tchaikovsky and Schumann are amongst the composers referenced here, while Lacrimosa is a reaction to music of his friend Tigran Mansurian. “My own music is a response to and an echo of what already exists,” says Silvestrov, viewing his oeuvre as a series of “codas” to music history. Hieroglyphen der Nacht was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Pünktlich zum 80. Geburtstag des ukrainischen Komponisten am 30. September erscheint mit dem Album Hieroglyphen der Nacht Musik von Valentin Silvestrov für ein und zwei Violoncelli. Die deutsche Cellistin Anja Lechner pflegt eine langjährige Beziehung zu seinen Werken, erstmals 2001 dokumentiert mit leggiero, pesante, das für einen Grammy nominiert wurde. Nun interpretiert sie, allein, „Augenblicke der Stille und Traurigkeit“ (Stücke, die ihr gewidmet sind), „Lacrimosa“, „Walzer der Alpenglöckchen“ und „Elegie“ (bei dem sie Cello und Tamtams spielt). Mit der französischen Cellisten Agnès Vestermann – eine für sie vertraute Duopartnerin – spielt Lechner „Drei Stücke“ (beiden Musikerinnen gewidmet), „8.VI.1810…zum Geburtstag R.A. Schumann“, „Zwei Serenaden“ und „25.X.1893…zum Andenken an P.I. Tschaikowskij“. Wie so oft gleichen Silvestrovs Stücke metaphorischen Gesprächen mit Komponisten aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Nicht nur Schumann und Tschaikowsky werden bedacht, mit Lacrimosa wendet sich Silvestrov seinem Freund Tigran Mansurian zu. „Meine Musik ist Antwort und Echo auf alles, was existiert“, sagt Silvestrov, der sein Werk als eine Serie von „Codas“ auf die Musikgeschichte betrachtet. Hieroglyphen der Nacht wurde im Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano eingespielt, produziert von Manfred Eicher.
Featured Artists Recorded

December 2013, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano

Original Release Date


  • Drei Stücke
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 1I Hieroglyphen der Nacht01:55
  • 2II Nachhall eines Walzers02:38
  • 3III Nachhall einer Sarabande03:49
  • Elegie
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 4I02:01
  • 5II03:11
  • 6III11:10
  • 8.VI.1810... zum Geburtstag R.A. Schumann
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 7I Elegie03:53
  • 8II Serenade01:51
  • 9III Menuett02:26
  • 10Augenblicke der Stille und Traurigkeit
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 11Abendserenade
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 12Augenblicke einer Serenade
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 13Lacrimosa
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 25.X.1893... zum Andenken an P.I. Tschaikowskij
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
  • 14I Präludium "Geburt der Melodie"02:50
  • 15II Wiegenlied04:38
  • 16III Serenade03:46
  • 17Walzer der Alpenglöckchen
    (Valentin Silvestrov)
Die schöpferischen Momente Silvestrovs gleichen Augenblicken, die sich plötzlich entflammen, wartungsvoll  einen Übergang schaffen, in dem die Melodie in klare Motive zersplittert wird, um sich wie in einem Dämmerzustand entrückt aufzulösen. Silvestros Klänge im kleinen Format verkünden subtil poetische Anspielungen, stehen wie der ‚Walzer in Alpenglöckchen‘ an der Wiege zum Schweigen. Alles klingt elegisch, drückt eine stille Kontemplation aus, spiegelt suggestive Qualitäten. Die musikalische ‚Rede‘ widerfährt durch den technischen Apparat von ECM große Sorgfalt. Der kompositorischen Ästhetik dienen hingebungsvoll die Cellostimmen von Anja Lechner und Agnès Vesterman im Solo wie in  der Duo-Formation.
Egon F. Bezold, Der Opernfreund
Like John Cage and especially Morton Feldman, Silvestrov seeks to expose the surprisingly large world afforded by smaller, more circumscribed sounds – often little more than musical hieroglyphs, to use his titular metaphor. Here, his sonic outlook is reduced to mostly solo cello: even those pieces on which Anja Lechner is joined by a second cellist, the two instruments are meant to be played as if one, ‘four hand’ style. On ‘Elegie’, sibilant tam-tams are used softly, lending subtle depth behind her sparse cello line; but otherwise it’s an inventive journey through a single instrument’s melancholy sound-world. In ‘Echo Of A Waltz’, the second of ‘Drei Stucke’, her tentative, prickly pizzicato evokes a predatory insect positioning its most deadly attack, while in the elegiac ‘Moments Of Silence And Sadness’, similarly furtive triplets provide an intermittent anchoring figure for her quietly exploratory bowed part.
Andy Gill, The Independent
Released in time for Valentin Silvestrov’s 80th birthday on September 30th these “Hieroglyphs of the Night”, works for solo cello and for two cellos, exemplify the Ukrainian composer’s music at its most secretive and mysterious. These are quiet pieces. Silvestrov has spoken of “silence set to music”, and the hushed world of the compositions makes extreme demands of its interpreters with detailed, poetic performance instructions to play “with exalted unimportance” or “like the beating of a dragonfly’s wings.” As so often with Silvestrov, several of the pieces take the form of metaphorical conversations with composers of the past and the present. Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Mansurian are amongst the composers referenced here. “My own music is a response to and an echo of what already exists,” says Silvestrov, viewing his oeuvre as a series of “codas” to music history.
German cellist Anja Lechner has been playing Silvestrov’s music for twenty years now,
“First I heard a recording of the Fifth Symphony,” she recalls in a performer’s note in the CD booklet. “The music touched me deeply, I could almost say that it changed me: I was so moved by its delicate, breathing sounds and melodic fragments, interwoven with contrasting textures, finally dissolving into the air.”
Lechner subsequently recorded chamber music by Silvestrov with members of the Rosamunde Quartet and pianist Silke Avenhaus on the Grammy-nominated album leggiero, pesante in 2001. Two years later Silvestrov wrote the solo piece Augenblicke der Stille und Traurigkeit for her. Lechner plays it on the present recording, along with other solo pieces Lacrimosa, Walzer der Alpenglöckchen, and the strikingly unusual Elegie, which calls for her to play, simultaneously, both cello and gongs (for this piece, the soloist is flanked by tam-tams). Lechner: “Especially in the solo works, Silvestrov is very often playing with the idea of two voices or characters or concepts – shadow and light, or past and present, present and future. In the Elegie the tam-tam is obviously the shadow… I like the motions I have to make with the bow to play the tam-tam and to strike the strings of the cello, creating a melody without playing arco…”
Lacrimosa is dedicated to Tigran Mansurian, another composer with whom Anja Lechner has worked closely (see for instance the recording Quasi Parlando on which she is a soloist and the Rosamunde Quartet’s account of Mansurian’s String Quartets).
Lechner is joined by French cellist Agnès Vesterman to play Drei Stücke (dedicated to both musicians), 8.VI. 1810…zum Geburtstag R.A. Schumann, Serenaden, and 25.X.1893…zum Andenken an P.I. Tschaikowskij. Again, the challenges are many and unconventional. In the liner notes Silvestrov associate Tatjana Frumkis speaks of the composer’s insistence that the duo pieces must sound like a single cello with expanded possibilities, or a ‘cello four-hands’. The cellists alternate in contrasting roles, a leading part and an accompaniment of “Orphic arpeggiated pizzicatos.” Much of the action takes place in the cello’s high register, compounding the technical demands.
The duo of Anja Lechner and Agnès Vesterman was formed in 2009, when Lechner was invited to play all of Silvrestrov’s solo and duo music for cello at the Nostalghia Festival in Pozna, Poland. Lechner: “I knew the playing of Agnès from a recording with Garth Knox on ECM [see the albums D’amore and Saltarello]. I liked her warm, earthy tone and knew that she played free projects with early, contemporary and improvised music. She responded immediately and gladly to Silvestrov's music. Since then we not only share his melodies but also a love for his music.”
Arvo Pärt and the late Alfred Schnittke both described Valentin Silvestrov as "one of the greatest composers of our time”. He is also one of contemporary music’s true originals; though a leading figure in the former Soviet Union’s experimental music of the 1960s, he subsequently came to realise that "the most important lesson of the avant-garde was to be free of all preconceived ideas – including those of the avant-garde."
Silvestrov was born in Kiev in 1937 and studied the piano at Kiev Evening Music School, then composition, harmony and counterpoint at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. His early experimental orientation meant that his work received official criticism in the Soviet Union and, despite prizes and some prominent champions, recognition in his homeland and beyond was hard won.
Over time, Silvestrov’s compositional practice evolved into what he would come to call his “metaphorical style” or “meta-music.” His recordings on ECM include leggiero, pesante, Silent Songs, Requiem for Larissa, Metamusik/Postludium, two albums of sacred music with the Kiev Chamber Choir, the monumental Symphony No. 6, and the uncategorizable Bagatellen und Serenaden, which includes both orchestral music and the composer playing reflective solo piano.
Anja Lechner has appeared on more than 20 ECM albums spanning a wide range of musical idioms, from contemporary composition to improvisation. Ongoing projects include duos with Argentinean bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi and with French pianist François Couturier, and membership of the Tarkovsky Quartet. Recent appearances on ECM New Series have included the album Mirror with music of Tõnu Kõrvits. Further details at www.ecmrecords,com and Lechner’s own web site
Hieroglyphen der Nacht was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
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