Alnwick Recorded Music Society enjoyed an evening of unusually tranquil, reflective music when they were introduced to the works of Valentin Vasil’yevich Silvestrov
Silvestrov was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1937. He came rather late to music and did not start his studies at the Kiev Conservatory until 1958.
His attitude was: “Music is still song, even if one cannot literally sing it: it is not a philosophy, not a world-view. It is, above all, a chant, a song the world sings about itself, it is the musical testimony to life.”
Mike Alexander selected recordings to provide an overview of Silvestrov’s compositions, including vocal, chamber and orchestral works. Most pieces are very quiet. Even the loudest passages in his 5th Symphony are restrained so it is necessary to listen carefully.
This was certainly the case for Silvestrov’s melancholy Silent Songs, recorded by the baritone Sergey Yakovenko accompanied by pianist Ilya Scheps. In these touching performances, the piano is dominant, with the voice faintly, but clearly heard, as if in the background, a masterpiece of understated, controlled singing.
Other works included excerpts from Kitsch Music for Piano, Requiem for Larissa, Two Spiritual Songs – Alleluia and Ave Maria, Violin Sonata Post Scriptum and Symphony No.5.
Mike’s final choices were Two Pieces for Violin, composed as encores for Hilary Hahn in 2012, making a fitting end to a programme of understated, but rather beautiful music.