Valentin Silvestrov: Piano Works / Elisaveta Blumina, piano


Without previous knowledge of the music of Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937), listeners who generally steer clear of contemporary music might miss out by not giving this Grand Piano CD a chance. The works span a creative period of over 55 years from the composer's Naive Musik (1954-55, rev. 1993) through the 2 Bagatelles, Op. 173 (2011). Performances are by Russian pianist Elisaveta Blumina who has long been a champion of the Ukrainian composer's music and, as the esteem is mutual, enjoys the dedication by Silvestrov of two of his waltzes. Roughly half of the music here is appearing as world premiere recordings.

Peaceful and reflective, these miniature mood pieces are characterized by airy textures and shimmering harmonies of subtlety shifting colors. His melodies have a folksong quality to them, and a childlike simplicity. There is great economy to his music; it has been distilled to the point where all that remains is essential. The composer is reputedly generous and meticulous with expressive markings, giving his performer many of the shaded touches and subtleties he desires. With the extraordinary care that has gone into crafting this music, you can sense that he loves his creations.

Working in a harmonic idiom drawn from the post-romantic era and in forms reminiscent of the romantic period - nocturnes, idylls, bagatelles and preludes - Silvestrov's music owes much to earlier times. "I do not write new music" he has said, "my music is a response to and an echo of what already exists." The composer has called his piano miniatures "sublime insignificances," two words that juxtapose oddly, but characterize perfectly.