VALENTIN SILVESTROV: Ukrainian composer takes a stand against totalitarianism and violence

Valentin Silvestrov (*1937), one of Ukraine’s most important composers, is known for his quiet tones – both in chamber music and in works for larger orchestras. Silvestrov is a master of inwardness. His compositions are both sensual and thoughtful, and they speak a universal language.

On the night of March 8-9, 2022, Silvestrov fled from Kyiv to Germany. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, the Ukrainian composer takes a stand: Silvestrov openly condemns Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the strongest terms – but not Russian culture. Rather, he considers Russian and Ukrainian music to be a part of European culture. Silvestrov sees his music as a response to totalitarianism and violence. Due to the fragility of civilization, powerful and pompous compositions are no longer appropriate. Silvestrov relies on the quiet, on the silent tones to counter monumentalism.

Because of their delicate structure and unique transparency, Silvestrov’s works are part of the standard repertoire in concerts featuring contemporary composers.

Excerpts from compositions by Valentin Silvestrov:

  1. (00:00) Bagatelle (2022)
    Valentin Silvestrov, piano
  2. (01:14) Bagatelle (2022)
    Valentin Silvestrov, piano
  3. (01:38) Serenade for violin solo
    Gidon Kremer, violin
  4. (02:49) Prayer for the Ukraine
    Arrangement for orchestra: Eduard Resatsch
    Bamberg Symphony
    Jakub Hrůša
  5. (04:09) Prayer for the Ukraine
    Arrangement for orchestra: Eduard Resatsch
    Bamberg Symphony
    Jakub Hrůša
  6. (05:18) Prayer for the Ukraine
    Arrangement for orchestra: Eduard Resatsch
    Bamberg Symphony
    Jakub Hrůša
  7. (06:27) Bagatelle (2022)
    Valentin Silvestrov, piano

Report by
Gero Schließ & Anastassia Boutsko

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