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Silvestrov Postludium No. 3

03-06-2024 | By Stephen Francis Vasta | Issue 132

Silvestrov, Postludium No. 3. Matt Haimovitz, cello; Nadia Shpachenko, piano. Pentatone Music PTC5187305 (digital single). TT: 4.53.

It's been two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, and Pentatone has chosen to mark the date with this single track of music by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. (To have labelled the release as "A Celebration of Ukrainian Culture," however, is less felicitous; I get the idea, but the word "celebration" shouldn't be in the same room as these events.)

Silvestrov's idiom is basically conservative and tonal, and this Postludium is an extended, uncluttered threnody, launched and dominated by the cello in long, singing phrases. Double-stops, judiciously used, bring additional tonal body to key landing points. A few false cadences sound borderline New Age, as do the back-and-forth figurations that fill out much of the piano part, but the music manages not to fall into that anodyne limbo. The piano, taking over at 2.45, injects a cautious affirmation, but the cello's return to center stage at 3.40 introduces, for the first time, a disquieting angularity, evoking a grim emptiness that a final major cadence doesn't quite dispel.

Haimovitz inflects the broad, arching cello lines sensitively, with a full-throated sound that, more than once, suggests Rostropovich. Shpachenko partners him attentively with a crisp, clean tone, taking her moment in the spotlight with a more reserved expressiveness. The sound is fine, up close and vivid, with Mr. Haimovitz front and center—including, at the start, his rather conspicuous inhales.

Pentatone is offering a high-resolution download—the one I listened to—on its website for € 3,99, and a PCM hi-res download for € 4,99; the company has no plans for a "hard" disc issue, nor to incorporate it into a larger program. No notes are provided, save for the description and blurb on the download page.