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Fire Dressed in Black

Silvina Milstein Chamber Works

Release Date 2008

Catalogue No. LNT129

Music by:

Silvina Milstein

Performed by:

Odaline de la Martínez (conductor)
Alison Wells (mezzo-soprano)
Caroline Balding (violin)

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Stephen Pettitt, SUNDAY TIMES

Silvina Milstein’s music is many-layered and complex, but alluring – its colours multifarious, its ideas built from rich melodic and harmonic palettes … fire dressed in black (2002), a setting of a mystical-erotic text by St John of the Cross, the ‘sensuous fractal’ (Milstein’s words) of the concerto grosso-like tigres azules (2003), the poetic fluidity of of lavender light (1997) and the evocative decadence of cristales y susurros (2005), are all beautifully brought in Lontano’s clean, incisive, but naturally phrased readings. Balding’s aptly dramatic playing of two solo violin works inspired by Borges and Shakespeare is brilliant.


Argentinian composer Silvina Milstein is known in academic circles as an expert on Schoenberg, which has given her a reputation of being an 'intellectual' - not a good selling point in a country which doesn't like intellectuals. This CD proves just how wide of the mark that judgement is. It's true that if you listen intently you can discern the same little motifs coming hack again and again, turned this way and that. But this isn't parsimony, it's the sign of an emotional heat which keeps returning to the same thoughts, like a regretful lover. Milstein loves fantastical poetic imagery, and the music is saturated with them: blue tigers, Hindu temples, the 'lavender light' in Van Gogh's paintings.

Odaline de la Martinez and her group Lontano have clearly lavished care and love on these turbulent, hesitantly ecstatic pieces. All their burgeoning detail registers with maximum clarity, but it's an expressive clarity, not a forensic one. Caroline Balding is the fine soloist in the two solo violin pieces, and mezzo Alison Wells captures the fluttering intensity of Fire Dressed in Black, a setting of St John of the Cross's mystical poetry. If the pieces sometimes seem over-extended, that's no fault of the performers.

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