Sergey Zhukov    



honored art worker of Russian Federation




concerto for piano and orchestra


Piano Concerto is part of a series of instrumental concertos, that Sergey Zhukov dedicated to Bekova sisters: violinist Elvira Bekova, cellist Alfia Bekova and pianist Eleonora Bekova. The full series comprises the following triple Concert Mystery: Violin Concerto "Angels Day", Cello Concerto "Gethsemane night" and Piano Concerto Silentium.

In 2002 S. Zhukov was awarded "Composer of the Year by the newspaper "Musical Review" for a series of the instrumental concertos "Silentium", "Gethsemane night" and "Angels Day".
While devoting Silentium to Eleonora Bekova, Sergey Zhukov, as in other cases, had in his mind not only her skills as a soloist (as herein disclosed at large extent), but also her psychological profile. As an example, the composer said about her nature: "Eleonora is able of being in a deep meditation and at the same time in maximal performance ability. She can concurrently express sound and silence." Actually, the special relation between sound and silence has become the "theme" of the Piano Concerto. It should be noted that the name "Silentium" stems from a famous poem by Osip Mandelstam, which has the same name.


She who has not yet been born
Is both word and music
And so the imperishable link
Between everything living.

The sea's chest breathes calmly,
But the mad day sparkles
And the foam's pale lilac
In its bowl of turbid blue.

May my lips attain
The primordial muteness,
Like a crystal-clear sound
Immaculate since birth!

Remain foam, Aphrodite,
Andwordreturn to music;
And, fused with life's core,
Heart be ashamed of heart!

(1910, 1935)

* Silence (Latin)

Part I is a detailed introduction and the basis of the composition. This "habitation" of silence beside sound - is like hovering in space following just a gentle shove, and then gradually coming to halt - with improvised "samples" of various types of textures, reaching to heights of the dynamic scale, avoiding appeasement until overexcitement and finally returning to silence, or more precisely - to the poetic image of silence (which will be the situation also in each of the subsequent parts). Following is a "free summary" of the first stanza of Mandelstam's poem:

She who has not yet been born,/ Is both a word and music.

Part II expresses an "attack" of the sound on the silence, using vigorous toccata performance, starting gradually by a dialogue between piano and drums. An ostinato rhythm firmly binds the details of the overall orchestral textures, and acts like "gunpowder" in a series of "explosions" repeatedly expanding the sound space. A second toccata invasion wave is produced by timpani beats, like "evil" scherzo, exceeding the first series using more vigorous crescendo. However, when reaching its peak, the second wave turns into a pantheistic hymn which is consistent both with the program as well as with the second stanza of Mandelstam's poem: "But, like a madman, bright day ...."

Part III expresses the image of silence as an embodiment of a celestial beauty, about which the poet beseeches: "Remain foam, Aphrodite...." This part of the concert is in line with the beginning of the Concerto in the sense that it also expresses studying, or "feeling" of the space. However, there is the difference that the space now is non-hostile, therefore the "means" of research do not comprise previous clusters sforzando, for example, but there are a harmonic intervals, which appear in a slow pace at different heights, associated with calm chords that give rise to smooth melodic lines.

Part IV constitutes the final development of the idea of concurrent destruction and creation of sound, which was declared in the second part of the concert, associated with the emergence of ostinato rhythm. The abundance of tutti sounds, sharp accents and preference of the vortex type of motion actually resembles kind of dance of Shiva while he is constantly destroying and reviving the whole world.

Part V, Post scriptum, sounds like the third part of the concert while constituting part of its figurative content. This is a new incarnation of silence. Here is the outcrop of "the source" concert - based on a poem by Osip Mandelstam. It comprises stanzas to be performed by Pianist, which where reduced by author from four to three in the original version, though with a change of order. This is an additional refinement of the work meaning. Unlike the poet, the composer causes the last stanzas to utter almost prayerful appeal May my lips attain / The primordial muteness, / Like a crystalclear sound / Immaculate since birth!


Olga Bugrova



Review on Cameo Classics CD

Piano Concerto Silentium


Written for the soloist on this recording, Eleonora Bekova Piano Concerto Silentium explores the relationship between sound and silence.

There is a short period of silence in the opening of Part I before the piano picks out a motif against a hushed orchestra. This is soon slowly developed with the piano phrases becoming occasionally dramatic. It is this juxtaposition of silence against piano motifs that encapsulates this music. Halfway through, the orchestra develops a more melodic theme for woodwind before the piano re-enters in cascading, falling phrases imitated by the orchestra. The music eventually quietens though retaining a dramatic underlying tension. Dancing, staccato phrases for the piano are developed against a brittle orchestra before quietening and fading to silence. A languid theme for piano and orchestra with chiming bells brings Part I to an end. 

Part II opens with a rapid, insistent toccata theme for piano against a percussive orchestral accompaniment. The music builds slowly to a dramatic explosion from the orchestra. The bells return before the music disintegrates, leading to an incisive string passage, set against timpani that builds insistently to a climax. Eventually the music opens out to a more expansive piano theme joined by the orchestra in the same expansive theme. The music quietens to a hush but the orchestra throws out two loud outbursts before the piano leads to a hushed conclusion.

Part III has a quiet and gentle ascending theme for the piano before a vibraphone and other percussion join in this atmospheric, hauntingly strange movement. As the piano slowly moves the music forward, strange orchestral sounds are heard in the background before leading to a climax after which the piano gives a descending cascade of notes. A hushed section, where the piano picks out a theme against odd little orchestral interventions, leads to a quiet coda.

Part IV has a short orchestral opening before the piano arrives with motoric rhythms constantly repeated. Soon a jazz like theme appears over a percussive orchestral sound. Suddenly there are piano and orchestral outbursts against moments of silence leading to disjointed phrases for piano over a dramatic orchestral accompaniment. The piano continues to dance around the keyboard set against dramatic orchestral outbursts before a climax is reached bringing staccato orchestral and piano phrases. Soon the jazz element returns as the piano hurtles forward with the orchestra ever faster before a sudden silence with only hushed, tinkling orchestral sounds.

Broad piano chords open Part V before the pianist recites the texts by the Jewish poet, Osip Mandelstam over the beautiful, languid piano and orchestral melody. The piano and orchestra fade to silence to end.

This is a striking and often beautiful concerto brilliantly played by Eleonora Bekova, who is able to move from hushed delicate playing to the most virtuosic piano passages with ease, ably supported by Marius Stravinsky and the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra.


Posted by Bruce Reader

The Classical Reviewer



Short review on CD

Zhukov's concerto takes its title from a poem by Osip Mandelstam, full of images of creation, birth, space, color and sound. The first movement presents a kind of creation-myth, in which fragments of contrasting textures echo in a void of silence, detached and unable to form more than fleeting concrete forms, finally achieving a glowing, harmonically lush coda. Part two is an agitated toccata, establishing a strong sense of tonality for the first time in the work, and finally unpleasing the full forces of the large orchestra, with reminiscences of Prokofiev. The third part is still, ethereal, full of shimmering, impressionistic textures which coalesce briefly into a surging, harmonically sumptuous climax. The following movement is vigorous and motoric, led by the soloist's driven ostinato rhythms, taken up by the percussion, then the rest of the orchestra. By this stage the music is very tonal, and the piece seems propelled by the soloist's stabbing off-beat chords that punctuate the orchestra's richly harmonized fabric toward a cumulative peroration and bombastically triumphant close, à la Khachaturian. Unexpectedly, though, a brief coda follows, with the soloist playing stately arpeggiated figuration like that at the start of the last movement of the Busoni concerto and reciting the poem against a much reduced orchestral background; sound etched on the silence of the opening of the work.

Nimbus Records