New Classical Tracks®

Pianist Hélène Grimaud pays homage to one of Ukraine’s greatest living composers

Hélène Grimaud discovered Silvestrov’s 'Silent Songs' almost 20 years ago.Mat Hennek

New Classical Tracks - Hélène Grimaud (Extended)


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March 22, 2023

Hélène Grimaud and Konstantin Krimmel — Silvestrov: Silent Songs (DG)

New Classical Tracks - Hélène Grimaud

“His music is his poetry. It has exceptional transparency. It's simple in the language yet so expressive. Do you know what they say in French? This expression, à fleur de peau — ‘means I want to pull something on the skin's surface that reaches deep,’” says French pianist Hélène Grimaud about the music of one of Ukraine’s greatest living composers, Valentin Silvestrov. “It is pervasive and something that grabs you by the heart and hand and takes you quite far. It's a beautiful journey.”

Her most recent recording, Silvestrov: Silent Songs, also features German/Romanian baritone Konstantin Krimmel as they pay homage to Silvestrov and perform 12 of his 24 ‘Silent Songs.’

What was it like performing these works in front of the composer?

“We met just before the performance, which was the one to be recorded. To meet him afterward and get into his head was a gift. It is a privilege to ask a creator because we always hoped we would have the chance to do it. It's both intimidating and wonderful to have that possibility.

“One thing that fascinated me was that he confirmed my suspicions. Part of the artistic process in the composition is about catching the music. It comes to him as something preexisting. I think there's something extraordinary about it.”

Can you talk about some of the poets that are represented on the album?

“There is a poem by John Keat. It has to do with the melody. The melody is equivalent to a smile, and it is what enables connection. He says you can connect through that smile when you meet another being.

“Because of the hypnotic melody, every time it comes back, it has a different connotation. What better theme is there than love in all its déclinaisons?”

What is the role of the piano in these songs?

“I feel that the role of the piano in this cycle is that of confidence. How would one say that in English? It’s the person you confide in and comes with a higher responsibility because you must take in those secrets and nurture them. There's a beautiful give and take and the music has this ebb and flow, which becomes an integral part of the expression.”

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


Hélène Grimaud and Konstantin Krimmel — Silvestrov: Silent Songs (DG Store)

Hélène Grimaud and Konstantin Krimmel — Silvestrov: Silent Songs (Amazon)

Hélène Grimaud (official site)