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Poppen then relates his experiences with the composer during a recording they made for the ECM label. How difficult it was for the musicians to follow Silvestrov's precisely notated instructions, three, four, five times pianissimo, da lontano (from afar), dolcissimo, leggerissimo (sweetest, lightest). 'Silvestrov fights for perfection. Even when getting 99% out of you, he is at the point of despair. But if he gets 100%, he is overwhelmingly happy.'
Poppen, who works with many contemporary composers, relates that Silvestrov is the only one who is so strict. He does not leave any room for independent interpretation, neither to the conductor nor the musicians. 'It forces the musicians into a special kind of awareness and makes you stay fully alert,' says Poppen.
But for the listener the music is 'easy to digest', according to the conductor, especially due to all those citations and classical forms, even if they are always broken in the end. Silvestrov is smiling patiently and explains that his melodies are always a methaphor, but one that is not to be taken for granted.
'Getting up every morning seeing the sun rising does not allow you to be unaware, to ignore it just because it is always there. It is important to remain sensitive to its beauty,' Silvestrov elaborates. He hopes that his listeners will see beyond the merely technical aspects of his composition. 'Trust in that music', he begs, 'without anticipated criticism.' Then he adds grinningly: 'Afterwards, criticism comes by itself, anyway.'
Copyright © 27 February 2006
Sissy von Kotzebue, Munich, Germany