This imposing work contains some of the most powerful, even tortured music Silvestrov has ever written –Gramophone, July 2003
The world premier recording of one of Valentin Silvestrov’s major symphonic achievements marks an important addition to the Ukrainian composer’s rapidly growing discography on ECM. Since 2001 the label has addressed his creative output in a number of releases that encompass a variety of genres. These include chamber works (“leggiero, pesante”, ECM 1776), choral music (“Requiem for Larissa”, ECM 1778), works for piano and orchestra (“Metamusik / Postludium”, ECM 1790) and the extraordinary song cycle (“Silent Songs”, ECM 1898/99). Now comes the almost hour-long Symphony No 6. Composed in 1994/95 and revised in 2000 it concludes the sequence of great orchestral works that Silvestrov wrote in the 1980s and 1990s.
It was in “Stille Lieder”, dating from the mid-70s, that the composer first employed his so-called “metaphorical style” in which echoes of long-lost sounds and poetic allusions are integrated with a highly developed sense of form. Symphony No. 6 is cast in five interrelated movements that all circle around the creation, transformation and final fragmentation of a melody. Silvestrov: “I try to compose by ear, to create the entire form as melody. The melodies should be viewed as something more than symbols or themes; they are more akin to a process than a result.” Tatjana Frumkis notes in the CD booklet that “throughout Silvestrov's symphony every line of the ‘subject’ can be retraced in all its ceaseless metamorphoses (...) The ‘labyrinth’ becomes more and more convoluted and tumultuous. Question and response, inhalation and exhalation: the living tissue of sounds, charged with deep dynamic force, sparkles and breathes as if bathed in sunlight or caressed by gusts of wind.”
In an interview with UK magazine Gramophone (July 2003) Silvestrov spoke of the work’s “atmosphere of imminent disaster”.. Although there is no explicit autobiographical element to the work the composer included a tribute to his wife Larissa in the concluding bars (in Russian solfeggio the notes A-D-C read “La-ri-ça”) which he was later to interpret as prescient. She was to die suddenly and unexpectedly, shortly after the completion of the first draft of the symphony, in August 1996 . In the following year Silvestrov poured his grief into the “Requiem for Larissa” convinced it would be his last composition. (It was not until 2003 that he was able to begin work on his seventh symphony.)
Valentin Silvestrov is acknowledged by his fellow composers as an artist of unique expressive power. Alfred Schnittke called him “the greatest composer of our generation”, a sentiment seconded by Arvo Pärt in the New Yorker some years ago: “Silvestrov is one of the greatest composers of our time.”
Born in 1937 in the Ukraine, Silvestrov studied piano at the Kiev Evening Music School (1955–58), and composition, harmony and counterpoint at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Kiev from 1958 to 1964. Silvestrov was alert from the outset to new compositional approaches, and an individual lyricism and melodic feeling have been hallmarks of his work through all periods of his artistic development, irrespective of musical styles or systems employed. Together with Leonid Grabovsky, he counts as the leading figure of the “Kiev Avant-garde”, which by 1960 was experimenting with 12-tone and aleatoric music and music theatre, in contradistinction to the generally conservative mood of Ukrainian composition.
His early work was briefly heard outside the Soviet Union in the late 1960s: Bruno Maderna conducted Silvestrov’s Third Symphony in Darmstadt in 1968, and Pierre Boulez presented his work in one of the Domaine Musical concerts. By this point, however, Silvestrov was already distancing himself from dominant trends in modern music.
In 1969 Silvestrov re-evaluated the meaning of his music, as he examined the relationship between historical culture on the one hand and the magical, primitive and perpetual dimension of inspiration on the other. “This is where Silvestrov’s music takes a highly interesting and distinctive turn. It becomes impregnated with a slow expressive confidence and exhibits greatly prolonged melodic lines in a post romantic climate that is often reminiscent of Gustav Mahler” (Frans C. Lemaire).
Silvestrov was one of the first composers from the former Soviet Union to cast aside what might be called the “conventional” gestures of the avant-garde, as well as any sense of formulaic “experimentalism”. As he has perceptively noted, “the most important lesson of the avant-garde was to be free of all preconceived ideas – particularly those of the avant-garde.” This perspective led to the development of an idiom which Silvestrov would eventually come to call his “metaphorical style” or “meta-music”.
A further Silvestrov title on ECM is in preparation: To coincide with the composer’s 70th birthday on September 30, 2007 the label will release an album of solo piano pieces played by Silvestrov himself combined with works for string orchestra featuring pianist Alexei Lubimov and the Münchener Kammerorchester directed by Christoph Poppen.
Andrey Boreyko was born in St Petersburg in 1957. He is currently music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor of the Hamburg Symphoniker, and first guest conductor of the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart. For the 2006/7 season, he has been appointed chief conductor designate of the Bern Symphony Orchestra. Boreyko regularly conducts the major orchestras at leading international music festivals. A focal point of his repertoire is music of contemporary composers from the former Soviet Union. On ECM he can be heard alongside pianist Alexei Lubimov and the SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra on the premier recording of Arvo Pärt’s “Lamentate”, released in 2005.
The SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart was founded 1946, and its great conductors have included Carl Schuricht, Sergiu Celibidache, Georges Prêtre, and, from 1998, Sir Roger Norrington. The orchestra was previously heard on ECM in performances of two other major works, Heinz Holliger’s Violin Concerto and Helmut Lachenmann’s “Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern”.
CD package includes a 28-page illustrated booklet with essays by Tatjana Frumkis and Herbert Glossner in English and German.