Valentin Silvestrov: Hieroglyphen der Nacht (ECM New Series 2389)

Hieroglyphen der Nacht

Valentin Silvestrov
Hieroglyphen der Nacht

Anja Lechner violoncello, tam-tam
Agnès Vesterman violoncello
Recorded December 2013, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Peter Laenger
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: September 22, 2017

Hieroglyphs are visual music. They imply movement, tell stories, and reflect human and spiritual connections. In the hands of composer Valentin Silvestrov, standard notation becomes a hieroglyphic language unto itself. Throughout the sequence of this program, most of it penned in the present century, language fills spaces in absence of utterances. Each composition is a planet orbiting an unspoken sun, thus illustrating the richness of silence as a resonant, vibrational constant. In the same way that zero gravity isn’t the absence of gravity but equal attraction from all directions simultaneously, silence acts upon chamber instruments until their voices emerge as one. The Drei Stücke for two cellos (2002/09) that open the program are proof of that very concept. Two bows move like arms attached to the same body, trailing lines of communication in sand: powerful in meaning yet susceptible to the tide. This dynamic resurfaces in the Serenaden (2002), also for two cellos, which return the evening sky after a day’s borrowing, threading stars like beads on a necklace, while the Lacrimosa for solo cello (2004) pulls them off one by one until their light becomes individual again.

Elegie for solo cello and two tam-tams (1999) treats air as writing surface, exploring layers of impermanence against the idealism of capture. In the first two parts of this tripartite composition, the cello tracks movements of branches with the naked ear, and in the third introduces the metallic breath of struck tam-tams. In this context, the relationship between contact and decay is somehow reversed, so that beginnings prune their wings with conclusive beaks. Lechner thus splits voices in unifying them, yet achieves the reverse in Augenblicke der Stille und Traurigkeit (2003), trading arco and pizzicato dialects with the ease of inhaling and exhaling.

8.VI.1810…zum Geburtstag R. A. Schumann for two cellos (2004) realizes the composer’s goal for a “cello four-hands,” expanding the instrument’s possibilities by turning it inward. A feeling of euphoria locks flesh with shadows. Dances flit by like opportunities for melodic escape, while their after-images seek reciprocation in the listening. Lechner and Vesterman accordingly hang their spirits on easels and mark them with every brushstroke of the bow. Although not sequential, the companion piece 25.X.1893…zum Andenken an P. I. Tschaikowskij (2004) folds twilit landscapes into lyrical dough, kneading the earth until it no longer sticks to the hands.

All of which funnels into the harmonic vessel of Walzer der Alpenglöckchen for solo cello (2004), in which the clicks of stick on string open mountainous doors, behind which smolder long-forgotten hearths, aglow with the possibility of slumber. And yet, while the album may feel like a dream, it’s no more susceptible to the blade of waking up than the nameless figure wielding it.

One thought on “Valentin Silvestrov: Hieroglyphen der Nacht (ECM New Series 2389)

  1. Thank you for the great review! I think this one is very special. Silences abound. Late night, before sleeping, with quiet surroundings, seem to be the best moment to hear it. And I´ve been doing this frequently.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s