Internationally, Lahti Symphony Orchestra is closely associated with the numerous Sibelius recordings released on BIS, conducted by their long-time chief conductor Osmo Vänskä. These recordings have received an overwhelming international welcome among reviewers, but also among record-buyers: as of August 2009 more than one million Lahti discs released by BIS have been sold! As many already know, the orchestra does not only play works by Sibelius - its recordings of music by contemporary Finnish composers such as Rautavaara, Kalevi Aho and Joonas Kokkonen have all met with critical acclaim. Led by Jukka-Pekka Saraste, its present chief conductor, the orchestra now takes a step eastwards, and performs two symphonies by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Having as a student absorbed the music of Webern, Scriabin and the new Polish school, in the 1970s Silvestrov moved away from avant-garde techniques and became increasingly involved with the idiom of 19th-century song: 'It seems to me that music is song in spite of everything, even when it is unable to sing in a literal sense. Not a philosophy, not a system of beliefs, but the song of the world about itself, and at the same time a musical testament to existence.' To date, Silvestrov has composed seven symphonies, of which the Fourth (1976) and the Fifth (1980-82) are both dominated by a longing for a beauty that used to be, but is no longer within reach. Considered by some to be his masterpiece, Symphony No.5 has for instance been described as 'an epilogue or coda inspired by the music of late Romantic composers such as Gustav Mahler.'
BBC Music Magazine: Double 5 stars.