WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Silvestrov: Silent Songs / Yakovenko, Scheps, Silvestrov


Release Date: 10/19/2004 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 9821424   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Valentin Silvestrov
Performer:  Valentin SilvestrovSergei YakovenkoIlya Scheps
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 59 Mins. 

Import   
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

I’ve reviewed Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937) several times now, and so far, the novelty hasn’t worn off. Silvestrov is currently the best-known Ukrainian composer, and while a neo-Romantic, he has an unusual take on that aesthetic. All of his music is saturated with nostalgia: not the drippy, sentimental kind, but one that’s deeply tragic, that mourns the lost beauties of the past. The very impossibility of their retrieval increases the poignancy of their evocation. As a consequence, all of his music (or at least what I’ve heard so far) exists in a state of mourning for the grandly expressive Western tradition, martyred on the altar of so many horrors in the 20th century.

Silent Songs is a 24-song cycle dating from 1974–77,
Read more and is a grand gamble. For its entirety, almost two hours, its tempo is moderately slow, its texture open and spare, its dynamic hushed (except for a couple of restrained outbursts). The baritone must perform the Herculean anti-task of singing everything sotto voce. As a result, the tone is consistently prayerful, though at times it feels almost as though the voice is being strangled. But the overall effect is hushed, intimate, almost seductive. One feels as though the voice is whispering softly in one’s ear.

The actual music is a sort of distilled late-Romantic tonality. The piano accompaniment is made of delicately shaped arpeggios. The harmonies are studded with appoggiaturas (downbeat dissonances that resolve) and surprising (but satisfying) substitutions for where one would expect a progression to go. There are, at times, evocations of folk song; at a moment, one may feel the underlying pulse of a waltz, but even more frequently, the music is a perpetually unfolding elegy, an abstracted Romanticism. While Keats and Shelley appear in the texts, all are sung in Russian, and the vast majority of poets presented are Russian as well, pride of place being given to Pushkin, Lermontov, Mandelstam, and Zhukovsky.

The Mandelstam songs date from 1982, and I find them less satisfying. Their passion is more heart-on-sleeve, and thus, curiously enough, they make less of an impact. Also, Silvestrov as pianist is like many composers, almost too eager in his attack. (But at the same time, the authenticity of his touch and presence in the process is priceless). No such quibble about the performances of the Silent Songs. Yakovenko is stunning in both his intensity and restraint, and Scheps is an ideally sensitive accompanist. The recording is a Melodiya tape in the vault from a session in 1985, and so its AAD hiss and balance may sound a little antiquated to current ears. But that’s a trifle to pay for the beauty of the work at hand. A remarkable, rare flower of a piece.

Robert Carl, FANFARE
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Songs (4) from O. Mandelstam by Valentin Silvestrov
Performer:  Valentin Silvestrov (Piano), Sergei Yakovenko (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USSR 
Date of Recording: 1986 
Venue:  Moscow, Russia 
Length: 13 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
2. Silent Songs: Songs (5) after Poems by Baratynsky, Keats, Pushkin and Shevchenko by Valentin Silvestrov
Performer:  Sergei Yakovenko (Baritone), Ilya Scheps (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USSR 
Date of Recording: 1986 
Venue:  Moscow, Russia 
Length: 51 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
Notes: One of the songs in this part of the cycle is sung in Ukrainian.
Composition written: USSR (1974 - 1975). 
3. Silent Songs: Songs (3) after Poems by Lermontov by Valentin Silvestrov
Performer:  Sergei Yakovenko (Baritone), Ilya Scheps (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USSR 
Date of Recording: 1986 
Venue:  Moscow, Russia 
Length: 14 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
Notes: Composition written: USSR (1974 - 1975). 
4. Silent Songs: Songs (5) after Poems by Pushkin, Tyutchev, Mandelstam and Zhukovsky by Valentin Silvestrov
Performer:  Ilya Scheps (Piano), Sergei Yakovenko (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USSR 
Date of Recording: 1986 
Venue:  Moscow, Russia 
Length: 14 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
Notes: Composition written: USSR (1974 - 1975). 
5. Silent Songs: Songs (11) after Poems by Pushkin, Mandelstam, Lermontov, Tyutchev, Shelley and Yeseni by Valentin Silvestrov
Performer:  Ilya Scheps (Piano), Sergei Yakovenko (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USSR 
Date of Recording: 1986 
Venue:  Moscow, Russia 
Length: 51 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Language: Russian 
Notes: Composition written: USSR (1974 - 1975). 

Sound Samples

Silent Songs / 1. Five Songs: Prelude. Song Can Tend The Ailing Spirit
Silent Songs / 1. Five Songs: There Were Some Storms And Blizzards
Silent Songs / 1. Five Songs: La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Silent Songs / 1. Five Songs: O Melancholy Time!
Silent Songs / 1. Five Songs: Farewell, O World! Farewell, O Earth!
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: What Meaning Has My Name For You?
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: I Will Tell You With Unswerving Frankness
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: I'm Drinking To Mary
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: Winter Journey
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: White, A Solitary Sail
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: I Met You
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: The Isle
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: Something Tender, Blue, Unspoken
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: Autumn Song
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: Swamps And Marshes
Silent Songs / 2. Eleven Songs: Winter Evening
Silent Songs / 3. Three Songs: When The Cornfield, Yellowing, Stirs
Silent Songs / 3. Three Songs: I Set Out On The Road Alone
Silent Songs / 3. Three Songs: Mountain Summits
Silent Songs / 4. Five Songs: Elegy. Verses Composed At Night, At A Time Of Insomnia
Silent Songs / 4. Five Songs: Choral. A Vengeful God
Silent Songs / 4. Five Songs: Meditation. It's Time, My Friend, It's Time!
Silent Songs / 4. Five Songs: Ode. Schubert On Water
Silent Songs / 4. Five Songs: Postludium. Those Sweet Companions
Four Songs After Osip Mandelstam: My Lashes Are Pricking
Four Songs After Osip Mandelstam: I Don't Know When
Four Songs After Osip Mandelstam: For The Thunderous Grandeur Of Ages To Come
Four Songs After Osip Mandelstam: The Stone Spurs Of Pieria

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook