Valentin Silvestrov : Requiem for Larissa

Valentin Silvestrov

Valentin Silvestrov composed Requiem for Larissa between 1997 and 1999 as a memorial to his wife, musicologist Larissa Bondarenko, who died in 1996. It is a big and unceasingly somber work, scored for chorus and orchestra. Understandably, this Requiem is to a degree reflective, incorporating musical themes drawn from older works that had special meaning to the couple. While Silvestrov’s typically glacial tempos are in evidence here, some of the opening half of the piece has an angular spikiness that recalls serial techniques without actively engaging in them. (Allmusic)

Silvestrov 1999 Requiem for LarissaIn Requiem for Larissa, Silvestrov disorients the listener even more by fragmenting the familiar Latin texts. The choir stops in the middle of a phrase as if it has forgotten what it is trying to say, or as if what it is trying to say is too painful to complete. Perhaps it is telling that the most coherent setting is that of the Lacrimosa. In the score’s fourth section, the composer interpolates a text from a poem called “The Dream,” written by the 19th-century Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Both of these sections feature solo voices – a soprano in the Lacrimosa and a tenor in the Shevchenko setting. Elsewhere, the chorus bears the brunt of the vocal demands.

Most of the Requiem for Larissa is quiet, even pretty, but there are thundering climaxes which appear and disappear with little preparation or warning. At the end, there is no salvation, let alone comfort or resolution. Silvestrov’s goal, it seems, is not to resolve matters, but to let us know that closure, if it is possible at all, is painfully elusive. (

Requiem for Larissa
National Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Ukraine/Volodymyr Sirenko
ECM New Series 1778 472112-2 DDD 52:32

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