New Release - Valentin Silvestrov - Symphonies 4 & 5

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Prepare to be mesmerized. The music of the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov is so engrossing, that time, as if taking a cue from the music itself, seems to stand still. The best way I can attempt to describe his music is as follows. Combine the obsessive attention to repetitive motivic details like Allan Pettersson, the innovative orchestration skills of Poul Ruders, and the emotional extremes of Gustav Mahler and you get the idea of who Valentin Silvestrov is. His music lies at the existential level. It feeds on itself. It comes from nothing and returns to nothing, but in the interim in between, it constantly renews itself and reaches heights of unimaginable beauty. For example, Symphony No. 4 written in 1976, opens with massive chords that come out of nowhere, who then gradually release their inner notes to create the strands of melodies that will extend their existence until they return near the end. Moments of terror are transformed into moments of awe, and vice-versa. Just the beauty of the orchestration breathes life into every note, and it always seems as if the ever shifting patterns could be endless.

The 1982 Symphony No. 5 is a work on a larger scale and adopts Silvestrov's own philosophy. "I do not write new music. My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists." It is loosely based on the strings and harp Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's own 5th Symphony. It contrasts moments of sublime, string rich melodies, with moments of thundering bass drum rolls and growling brass. The booklet notes are detailed and offer far better explanations as to the work's rationale, even mentioning such things as cosmic forces and the Creation...Let me just say that for the 40 minutes of this work's duration, my full attention was captivated by the odd beauty of what I heard.

Jukka-Pekka Saraste has always been a champion of contemporary music and is definitely in his element here. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra play with a deep conviction and understanding of this music and deliver all the subtle beauties of the orchestration. And of course, the Bis recording is demonstration quality. This CD was just released in December of 2009, and is a great way to end a year loaded with great new recordings.

Jean-Yves Duperron