Ukraine war: A special tribute

Valentin Silvestrov, who was born in 1937, is regarded as the best living Ukrainian composer and a master of soft sounds. His signature works are his bagatelles, or brief piano pieces, some of which last less than a minute. He is the author of eight symphonies and several significant instrumental works.

The 84-year-old Silvestrov decided to leave his homeland of Kyiv on March 9, 2022 because it was being brutally attacked by Russian forces. He finally landed in Berlin as a refugee after a two-day journey.

In conversation, his anguish and tiredness were audible: “Quite frankly, I didn’t want to leave,” he admitted. “I’m already sick of living in a world where things like this take place. I do, however, have a young daughter and granddaughter. They must survive! I decided to quit because of this.”

Particularly because orchestras and soloists all over the world strive to present as much Ukrainian music as possible, Silvestrov’s pieces are regularly heard. On March 16, his composition “The Messenger — 1996” was performed in Cologne as a part of a concert in support of Ukraine.

“In remembrance of Larissa Bondarenko,” the inscription on the score reads. She was the wife of Silvestrov and a well-known Ukrainian musicologist who was respected for her mind and enthusiasm.

She died very suddenly in 1996. She and Silvestrov had been inseparable; they had been there for each other through thick and thin. To a friend, Silvestrov once wrote: “If Larissa hadn’t been there, I’m not sure what would have happened to me and my music. She has had such a profound impact on my life and work that I sometimes feel a little artificial when I write my name, as if it doesn’t belong to me alone.”

Chamber music can be heard in “The Messenger — 1996.” Later, Silvestrov expanded on it to create a lengthier piece that he also dedicated to his wife. It should sound “extremely gentle and faraway, very light and mournful,” according to his annotation on “The Messenger.”

We’ll hear a performance of this piece by the Figuralchor Köln and the Neues Rheinisches Kammerorchester, two Cologne-based ensembles. Richard Mailänder conducted the piece.

Protesting the war

One of many who have vehemently denounced the Russian invasion is the well-known conductor Daniel Barenboim, whose family were Ukrainian. He branded the war as “murderous” and “inhumane” in press remarks that were released on March 11. We cannot be impartial in the face of such descriptions.

Giuseppe Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem,” or requiem mass, was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic under Barenboim on the same day he made those statements.

Although Verdi’s “Requiem” isn’t renowned for being silent, it does demonstrate the fragility of life and, consequently, of society. Following the passing of Italian poet Alessandro Manzoni, Verdi composed the work in 1873. It has been said to exist in between religious music and opera.

Verdi wrote the solo parts in a style that was influenced by his opera “Aida,” despite the fact that it employs the Latin Mass for the Dead’s text. The end product is high drama, a terrible apocalyptic panorama of sound.

This concert had been scheduled for a while, but in light of the invasion of Ukraine, it now had a new significance. The music expresses the struggle against death by being urgent, frightful, somber, and eventually triumphant.

The Berlin Philharmonic frequently performs Verdi’s “Requiem,” but the performance in March was genuinely exceptional. A better group of soloists could not have been found; all were replacements who were added at the last minute due to illness. The soprano was Susanne Bernhard, the mezzo-soprano was Marina Prudenskaya, the tenor was Michael Spyres, and the bass was Tareq Nazmi. The Rundfunkchor Berlin, or Berlin Radio Choir, joined them.

The fact that world-renowned Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili was the concert mistress was another pleasant surprise of the evening. This was probably done as a show of support because Batiashvili’s own country, Georgia, has previously been invaded by Russia, and she has strongly denounced the conflict in Ukraine.

Send us an email at if you have any questions or suggestions. We hope you’ll be there when we perform at another Deutsche Welle Festival.

This DW Festival Concert included the following performances:

  1. The Messenger by Valentin Silvestrov

New Rheinische Kammerorchester and Figuralchor Köln perform.

Richard Mailänder was the conductor of the Solidarity and Freedom Concert for Ukraine, which was held in Cologne on March 16, 2022.

Messa de Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi Requiem, Kyrie, Dies irae, Offertorio, Sanctus, V. Agnus Dei, Lux aeterna, and Libera me are the first three pieces.

performed by the Rundfunkchor Berlin, Tareq Nazmi on bass, Susanne Bernhard on soprano, Marina Prudenskaya on mezzo-soprano, Michael Spyres on tenor, and

On March 11, 2022, Daniel Barenboim will be the conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic Opera.

  1. Valentin Silvestrov, Three Fleeting Waltzes from Bagatelles XXV, op. 236 (2015)

Valentin Silvestrov, piano, performs.