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Valentin Silvestrov Symphony No.5; Symphony Exegi Monumentum

The Ural Philharmonic Orchestra, Yekaterinenburg/Andrej Borejko
Recorded 1992; remastered (1997) in the presence of the composer.
Artistic Direction: Patrick De Clerck

MEGADISC MDC 7836 TT: 68'10'' (Purchase from patrick@megadisc.be)

Valentin Vassilievitch Silvestrov (b.Kiev, 1937) showed early originality but was refused permission by the Soviet authorities to attend Stockhausen's seminar in Darmstadt in 1961. Surprisingly, his Third Symphony "Eschatophony", was premiered there in 1968 under Bruno Maderna. Adorno rejected objections of purists who deemed Silvestrov's work too expressive. Silvestrov's success irritated the powers in Moscow who branded him an Ukrainian avantgardist.

In the '70s Silvestrov's music became neo-romantic, 'impregnated with slow expressive confidence and greatly prolonged melodic lines'. The Fifth Symphony subtitled Postsinfonia (1976) is one of a series of works of a beauty of which evokes the haunting adagios of Mahler. His musical language has been described as 'transforming every composition into an epilogue, a postlude to the form music history assumed at the end of the nineteenth century', a precursor of later "spectral" music, sharing with Scelsi the search to recover the cosmic force of sound. Melody is core to his style; 'waves of music travel towards the sea of silence'. It ebbs and flows, like waves breaking upon the shore, each surge with a halo of harmony and instrumental clothing, a unique effect corresponding to the subtle resonances and pedal effects of his piano music.

The Fifth Symphony is an extensive orchestral monologue., "after-music", "end-music", music from beyond, 'not the music of an intellectual who constantly seeks to correct himself'. Echoes of Mahler are inescapable, with 'recitatives for trombone, melodic patterns with declining profiles, arpeggio-accompaniment, prolonged descents toward silence'. Given patient receptivity, you may find yourself swept away into new emotional dimensions, a new and rare quality of beauty.

Exegi Monumentum for Baritone (Sergej Jakovenko) and Orchestra (1985-87) sets a Pushkin poem about the problem of the life and survival of artistic work in the face of the indifference or hostility. The Megadisc notes writer, from whom I quote above, gives the closing stanza only: I append the whole poem, found on the Web. The recording is excellent and the performances have the stamp of authenticity.

Pushkin's Poem "Exegi Monumentum"

"No hands have wrought my monument; no weeds
will hide the nation's footpath to its site.
Tsar Alexander's column it exceeds
in splendid insubmissive height.

"Not all of me is dust. Within my song,
safe from the worm, my spirit will survive,
and my sublunar fame will dwell as long
as there is one last bard alive.

"Throughout great Rus' my echoes will extend,
and all will name me, all tongues in her use:
the Slavs' proud heir, the Finn, the Kalmuk, friend
of steppes, the yet untamed Tunguz.

"And to the people long shall I be dear
because kind feelings did my lyre extoll,
invoking freedom in an age of fear,
and mercy for the broken soul."

Obey thy God, and never mind, O Muse,
the laurels or the stings: make it thy rule
to be unstirred by praise as by abuse,
and do not contradict the fool.


Peter Grahame Woolf