SILVESTROV To Thee We Sing
At a first, superficial listening, this hour-long selection of Silvestrov’s a cappella choral music gives an impression of sumptuous solace, suffused by the warm, swimming acoustic of St John’s Church in Riga. Scratch a little deeper, however, and this contemplative recital reveals an astonishing richness which invites repeated listening. It has the effect of a healing balm and I cannot recommend it too highly for those who require restoration from life’s vicissitudes.
The Latvian Radio Choir under Sigvards Kl,ava sing, as expected, with a scintillating beauty. None of this programme, composed between 1995 and 2006, could be labelled technically easy. Fortunately the singers’ intonation, balance and blend are absolutely first-rate. Nearly all of this ‘metaphorical music’, as Silvestrov terms it, is either slow or very slow. There are stylistic hints of Poulenc, Pärt and Górecki, perhaps; certainly the ghost of Rachmaninov hovers
reverentially overhead. But Silvestrov is definitely his own man with his tuneful, naive and floating music. He favours rich homophonic textures, with basses delving several leger lines below the stave and the sopranos weaving the sweetest of melodic lines, flavoured by a fondness for falling sequences. Accompaniments are often hummed and occasionally whispered.
The disc’s centrepiece is the dark Diptych, the second part of which, ‘Testament’, is a setting of Silvestrov’s fellow Ukrainian Taras Shevchenko (1814 61). Its liquid beauty is breathtaking. On a lighter note, the Alleluia of 2006 is much daintier, almost waltz-like, akin to Elena Kats-Chernin. Where Silvestrov really makes his mark is in his endings, with scrumptious clustered chords suspended in mid-air. More please!