“Silvestrov’s music feeds on silence and is essentially characterised by a lyrical, highly sound-sensitive character. Reminiscences of Mozart, Chopin and Mahler mingle with centuries-old melodic turns and motifs to create a timeless sound language of its own”
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Valentin Silvestrov, the great Ukrainian composer is 85 years old today. We wish him many happy returns!
A leading figure in the former Soviet Union’s avant-garde in the 1960s as well as exponent of the “Darmstädter Schule”, Silvestrov subsequently came to realise that “the most important lesson of the avant-garde was to be free of all preconceived ideas – particularly those of the avant-garde.” Over time, his compositional practice evolved into what he would come to call his ‘metaphorical style’ or ‘meta-music’ – Gramophone magazine has described it as “music that as it were looks back on Music, with infinite tenderness and regret, as though it belonged to some wonderful but lost civilization”.
The composer’s association with ECM goes back over two decades and produced notable releases from early on: the chamber music recording ‘leggiero, pesante’ – with the Rosamunde Quartett, soprano Maacha Deubner and pianist Silke Avenhaus – and “Der Bote”, a piano recital by Alexei Lubimov incorporating Silvestrov’s composition of the same name. Many acclaimed albums with his music have appeared on ECM New Series since. Among them are the composer’s symphonic works ‘Metamusik / Postludium’ and ‘Symphony No. 6’, ‘Requiem for Larissa’ – Silvestrov’s commemoration of his late wife for orchestra and choir –, his chamber works as presented on ‘Bagatellen und Serenaden’ and the song cycle ‘Silent Songs’ with Sergey Yakovenko and Ilya Scheps. Also ‘Hieroglyphen der Nacht’ with Anja Lechner and Agnès Vesterman, the two choir recordings ‘Sacred Songs’ and ‘Sacred Works’, two albums by Duo Gazzana and the trio record ‘Misterioso’, with Kirill Rybakov, Alexander Trostiansky and Alexei Lubimov.
On this occasion, his new album ‘Maidan’ is released on ECM New Series. Silvestrov, who in spring 2022 had to leave his Kyiv home of over half a century, composed the album’s main cycle ‘Maidan’ in the wake of the ‘Euromaidan’ – the wave of demonstrations that hit Ukraine in 2014. As the composer has pointed out, “it’s no accident that the ending of the ‘Maidan 2014’ cycle is a quiet lullaby. For I’m neither able nor willing to duplicate the noise of this terrible war. Instead, I want to show how fragile our civilisation is. I try, with my music, to safeguard and preserve a day of peace. Today, it seem to me, this ought to be art’s primary aim.”
“You don’t have to know how or why it works to be deeply affected by it. It feels simple, yet it obviously isn’t; it’s profoundly beautiful, timeless, and unforgettable.”
BBC on Silvestrov’s oeuvre
Discover Silvestrov’s ECM New Series catalogue here:
Photo: Roberto Masotti