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Valentin Silvestrov

One morning as I was driving home and listening to BBC Radio 3 – a classical music station – they happened to be playing their “CD of the Week”, or some such. It was an excerpt from the Symphony No.6 by a Ukrainian composer I’d never heard of – a certain Valentin Silvestrov. Well, there was something about it that made my heart stop (I now know why). Being keen to explore further, I bought the CD online and was for a short time disorientated by the fact that the rest of the Symphony was nothing like the excerpt that I’d heard on the radio. I didn’t feel cheated; I realized I had to spin the CD a few times to get familiar with this new sound world. I was lucky: I was in-between day-jobs and had time on my hands packaging up press-kits to send to folk-clubs.

I liked it (understatement) enough to buy another work: The enigmatically titled Postludium for piano and orchestra. The title “Postludium” is used a number of times by Silvestrov in different contexts and with different music and instrumentation. I’m not as articulate about the reason behind this as the composer or the producer of the CD notes are (which I presume are copyright and can’t be reproduced here) so I’ll let the Wikipedia entry for the composer shed some light. Note particularly the quotes from Silvestrov which I think I can reproduce here:

“I do not write new music. My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists,”

“With our advanced artistic awareness, fewer and fewer texts are possible which, figuratively speaking, begin ‘at the beginning’… What this means is not the end of music as art, but the end of music, an end in which it can linger for a long time. It is very much in the area of the coda that immense life is possible.”

Knowing (I mean, having read and listened to) what I know now, I suppose his masterpiece is his Fifth Symphony but other works are trying to nudge it off its pedestal. My personal favourite at the moment is a thing called Dedication for violin and orchestra (a concerto?).

Anyhoo, all you fingerstyle guitarists and fans thereof – if you don’t give this composer some ear-time, you’re all fools, I tells ya! Fools!!

I leave the rest to Silvestrov: here is a YouTube of the composer playing a piano piece. Not representative, but I’m not sure there’s a single work of his that is!

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