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But before one is allowed to indulge in the music, there is a theoretical introduction, an interview with the composer Silvestrov by Christoph Poppen, the conductor of Münchener Kammerorchester (Munich Chamber Orchestra). This turns out to be a very difficult thing, because Poppen doesn't speak any language that Silvestrov does and Silvestrov's answers are long, detailed and philosophical. The translator frequently has to interrupt him, exclaiming: 'Stop, stop, this is really difficult to translate, wait a moment'.

From left to right: conductor Christoph Poppen, the translator, composer Valentyn Silvestrov and ECM boss Manfred Eicher. Photo © 2006 Sissy von Kotzebue
From left to right: conductor Christoph Poppen, the translator, composer Valentyn Silvestrov and ECM boss Manfred Eicher. Photo © 2006 Sissy von Kotzebue

Poppen wants to talk about the numerous changes of style Silvestrov has been through in his career. But Silvestrov interrupts. It is a straight development path, Silvestrov says, no changes. 'You just never know where you will get to while composing', he explains.

Experimenting with twelve-tone and aleatoric music, he belonged to the 'Kyiv avant garde' group in the 1960s. His work was also influenced by Stockhausen and Nono. But soon Silvestrov tried to escape. With his work Drama (1969/70), for instance, he says that he wanted to '... create a symbol for the drama of contemporary music'.

Silvestrov points out that at this time '... composition seemed to be stuck in a one-way-street built by the avant-garde composers themselves. They were just searching for new methods, damned the old and created a kind of "musical Esperanto".'

Silvestrov, however, says he hopes to destroy the wall they have built between new and old, and is aiming for some '... universal language that combines both sides. And this language must not belong to one composer alone, but everyone shall be free to use it.'

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Copyright © 27 February 2006 Sissy von Kotzebue, Munich, Germany

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