Episode #5 Valentyn Silvestrov’s Endless Melodies and the “End of History”

“I think that creativity, which is evidence of the artistic path, is not merely a set of examples of different stages of development; rather, it transcends the temporary cultural situation in some mysterious way – this is the hope of every author.” Ukrainian composer Valentyn Silvestrov (b. 1937) wrote this in a letter to a friend in 1978, and his creative work indeed exemplifies the balance between timeliness and timelessness that characterizes the most compelling art. While tracing his artistic path from the avant-garde period of the 1960s, to quietness and simplicity triggered by his interest in Zen Buddhism, to his never-ending postludes and sublime bagatelles, we contemplate his intriguing statements about music and “the end of history.”

Having lived most of his life in Kyiv, Silvestrov recently began to respond to historical events. The episode ends with his vocal works dedicated to the 2014 Maidan protests and piano pieces motivated by his 2022 forced emigration to Berlin.


Valentyn Silvestrov, String Quartet No. 1 (1974)
Lysenko String Quartet
Musica Non Grata, BMG/Melodiya CD

Valentyn Silvestrov, Spectra for chamber orchestra (1965)
The Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
Igor Blazhkov, conductor
Archival recording (recorded live in 1965)

“Melodia,” from Five Pieces (1961, dedicated to Igor Blazhkov)
Borys Demenko, piano
Borys Demenko, Ukrainian Piano Avant-garde (limited edition CD, recorded in 1970)

Valentyn Silvestrov, Symphony No. 3 ‘Eschatophony’ (1966)
Bruno Maderna, conductor
Archival recording (recorded live in Darmstadt, 1968)

Valentyn Silvestrov, Drama for violin, cello and piano (1970-71)
Jenny Lin, piano
Cornelius Dufallo, violin
Yves Dharamraj, cello
Koch Int’l Classics

Valentin Silvestrov, “The Dream,” from the cycle Quiet Songs (1973-1977)
Alexei Lyubimov, piano
Alexei Martynov, voice
Lyrics by Taras Shevchenko, from The Dream (Son, 1844)
Megadisc Classics

Valentyn Silvestrov, Symphony No. 5
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
David Robertson, conductor
Sony Classical

Valentyn Silvestrov, “Postludium III,” from Three Postludes (1981-1982)
Anja Lechner, Violoncello
Silke Avenhaus, Piano
ECM New Series

Valentyn Silvestrov, “Bagatelle I” and “Bagatelle III,” from Bagatelles (2005)
Valentin Silvestrov, Piano
ECM New Series

Valentyn Silvestrov, “Alleluia III, Night” (Ніч) from Alleluia (2006)
Latvian Radio Choir
Sigvards Klava, conductor

Valentyn Silvestrov, “Prayer for Ukraine” (Молитва за Україну) from Maidan – 2014
Kyiv Chamber Choir
Mykola Hobdych, conductor

Valentyn Silvestrov, “Anthem” (Гімн) from Maidan – 2014 a capella
Valentyn Silvestrov, piano and voice

Valentyn Silvestrov, “And Glory, Mountains Blue, to You” (I вам слава), from Maidan-2014 a capella
Valentyn Silvestrov, piano and voice
Lyrics by Taras Shevchenko, from The Caucasus (Кавказ, 1845)

Valentyn Silvestrov, “Elegy” from Eleven Pieces (2022)
Valentyn Silvestrov, piano
Recorded live in Berlin on March 17, 2022

Valentyn Silvestrov, “Evening Serenade” from Silent Music for string orchestra (2002)
Münchener Kammerorchester
Christoph Poppen, Conductor
ECM New Series

Note that only excerpts from each piece are quoted in the program. Please consider purchasing complete recordings at the links above.

Works cited

Desyateryk, Dmytro. “We started out of pure interest.” Day (January 30, 2018).

Kukushkin, Viktor, dir. The birth of music: Composer Valentyn Silvestrov (1991).

Nesterenko, Oksana “A Forbidden Fruit? Religion, Spirituality and Music in the USSR Before Its Fall (1964–1991)” (Ph.D. diss., Stony Brook University, 2021).

Schmelz, Peter J. “Intimate Histories of the Musical Cold War: Fred Prieberg and Igor Blazhkov’s Unofficial Diplomacy.” In Music and International History, ed. Jessica Gienow-Hecht, 189-225. New York: Berghahn, 2015.

Schmelz, Peter J.“Valentin Silvestrov and the Echoes of Music History.” The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Spring 2014): 231-271.

Sigov, Konstantin and Alla Vaysband, editors. Symposion: vstrechi s Valentinom Silvestrovïm [Symposion: encounters with Valentin Silvestrov]. Kyiv: Dukh i Litera, 2012.

Silvestrov, Valentyn and Sergey Pilyutikov. Dochekatysia Muzyky: Lektsii-besidy. Kyiv: Dukh i Litera, 2010.

Interview with Leonid Hrabovsky (New York, March 6, 2021)

Letter from Silvestrov to Hannelore Gerlach dated August 19, 1978 (Silvestrov Collection at Paul Sacher Stiftung).

Suggested reading

Schmelz, Peter J. Sonic Overload: Alfred Schnittke, Valentin Silvestrov, and Polystylism in the Late USSR. Oxford University Press, 2021.

Schmelz, Peter J. Such Freedom, If Only Musical: Unofficial Soviet Music During the Thaw. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Wilson, Samuel. “Valentin Silvestrov and the symphonic monument in ruins.” In Transformations of Musical Modernism, edited by Erling E. Guldbrandsen and Julian Johnson, 201-220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

©2022 by Extended Techniques. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “Episode #5 Valentyn Silvestrov’s Endless Melodies and the “End of History”

  1. Pingback: Valentyn Silvestrov’s Endless Melodies and “the End of History” | Extended Techniques

  2. Pingback: Extended Techniques Podcast Episode #5 Valentyn Silvestrov – Avant Music News

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