Valentin Silvestrov (born September 30, 1937 in Kiev) is a Ukrainian composer of contemporary classical music, increasingly regarded as one of the finest composers of his generation.
Silvestrov is perhaps best known for his avant-garde musical style; some, if not most, of his works could be considered neoclassical and modernist. Using traditional tonal and modal techniques, Silvestrov creates a unique and delicate tapestry of dramatic and emotional textures, qualities which Silvestrov suggests are otherwise sacrificed in much of contemporary music. "I do not write new music. My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists", Silvestrov has said.
Silvestrov's Symphony No. 5 (1980-1982), widely considered a masterpiece, may be viewed as an epilogue or coda inspired by the music of late Romantic composers such as Gustav Mahler. "With our advanced artistic awareness, fewer and fewer texts are possible which, figuratively speaking, begin 'at the beginning'... What this means is not the end of music as art, but the end of music, an end in which it can linger for a long time. It is very much in the area of the coda that immense life is possible."In 1974, under pressure to conform to both official precepts of socialist realism and fashionable modernism, Silvestrov chose to withdraw from spotlight. In this period he began to reject his previously modernist style. Instead, he composed "Silent Songs" ("Tèõèå Ïåñíè" (1977)) a seminal cycle intended to be played in private.
Silvestrov began private music lessons at age 15. He studied piano at the Kiev Evening Music School from 1955 to 1958, then at the Kiev Conservatory from 1958-1964; composition under Borys Lyatoshynsky, harmony and counterpoint under L. Revutsky. His contemporaries include Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt and Sofia Gubaidulina.
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