Critics have often emphasised the convergence of the creative paths of two great composers who began their careers in the stifling artistic climate of the USSR: Arvo Pärt (Estonia) and Valentyn Sylvestrov (Ukraine). Both searched for new expressive devices, initially following the avant-garde of the West, before eventually turning to silence, mysticism, and dialogue with tradition, although each did so in his own, very personal way. For both of them, this turn took place in the mid-1970s – for Sylvestrov, for example, it came in the cycle of Silent Songs, which later led to his exploration of the highly emotional post-Romantic style (Symphony No. 5) as well as an intense interest in Orthodox chant and Ukrainian national music (as well as in a strong reaction to the dramatic events of the present day, such as his Diptych to the words of Taras Shevchenko). Participation in the world premiere of a work by a composer of such class and renown is always an honour and experience for musicians, and an important and exciting event for audiences. This is precisely what we should expect in this April concert, when the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir will perform for the very first time Sylvestrov’s Psalm – a cycle of eight variations on the Ukrainian song Oj, zza hory kam'yanoyi.
The best-known medieval text describing the horror of the Last Judgement is the Dies irae sequence, which is included in the liturgy of the Mass for the Dead and has been spectacularly set to music on many occasions. However, it is not the only one such example. A similar role is performed by the hymn Apparebit repentina dies (the first words of each of its stanzas form an acrostic of the alphabet), which in 1947 served as the basis for a motet for choir and brass written by Paul Hindemith. This unusually impressive and poignant work, full of contrasts and perfectly exploiting the full sound palette of the ensemble, is relatively rarely performed, which makes its appearance in the concert programme all the more interesting.
Valentyn Sylvestrov's composition commissioned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
Financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the 2017–2022 NIEPODLEGŁA Multi-Year Programme