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 "Angel’s Day", Cello Concerto "Gethsemane night" and
Piano Concerto «Silentium».
S. Zhukov was awarded "Composer of the Year” by the newspaper "Musical
Review" for a series of the instrumental concertos "Silentium",
"Gethsemane night" and
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,
And—word—return to music;
And, fused with life's core,
Heart be ashamed of heart!
* Silence (Latin)
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
“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.
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!”
Review on Cameo
for the soloist on this recording, Eleonora Bekova Piano Concerto
‘Silentium’ explores the relationship between sound and silence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Bruce Reader
The Classical Reviewer
Short review on CD
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.