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Silvina Milstein

CountryUnited Kingdom
OccupationComposer, Musicologist, Teacher

Silvina Milstein was born in Buenos Aires in 1956 and emigrated to Britain after the Argentinian military coup of 1976. At Glasgow University her composition teachers were Judith Weir and Lyell Cresswell, and at Cambridge University she worked with Alexander Goehr. In the late eighties she held fellowships at Jesus College and King's College (Cambridge), and is currently a professor of music at King's College London.

Over the past ten years she has explored musical forms arising from heightened states of awareness, borrowing from a wealth of artistic media and spiritual traditions. These preoccupations are evident in her recent works for the London Sinfonietta, Tigres azules being an investigation of the compositional potential of treating the ‘present moment as an infinite dream’, and surrounded by distance… an exploration of the indefinable, yet seemingly precise manner in which musical shapes and configurations arise spontaneously as evocative appearances and illusory continuities as described in the Lankatavara Sutra.

… Silvina Milstein’s music is many-layered and complex, but alluring – its colours multifarious, its ideas built from rich melodic and harmonic palettes (Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times)

Milstein loves fantastical poetic imagery and the music is saturated with them: blue tigers, Hindu temples, the ‘lavender light’ in Van Gogh’s paintings.

… turbulent, hesitantly ecstatic pieces. (Ivan Hewett, BBC Music Magazine)

An important strand in Silvina Milstein’s music is the use of evocative gestures that draw from the vernacular of Buenos Aires, which she evolved in music of the city (1995) and a media luz (2000), as a means of furnishing a composition with a sense of modality. These pieces are like kaleidoscopic collages made out of evocative fragments of characteristic rhythms, turns-of-phrases, and sonorities from Argentinean popular music (tango, milonga, bolero), embodied in textures inspired by the music of the Second Viennese School.

.... Possibly the highlight of the programme was Silvina Milstein's highly poetic a media luz, a work of half-light, murmurings, muted rustlings and reminiscences that treats the orchestra with post-expressionist expertise. Milstein intended a work of rich texture in which, by analogy with Cézanne, the canvas showed through. The resulting balance of static and dynamic was beautifully controlled. (Anthony Payne, The Independent)

Her music has been played by some of the world’s leading orchestras, ensembles and performers in Britain and abroad, such as the Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt), the London Sinfonietta, Lontano, the BBC Singers, the Endellion String Quartet, and Jane Manning. Her compositions have been championed by the conductors Oliver Knussen and Odaline de la Martinez, who have been instrumental in the commissioning of many of her compositions.

Silvina Milstein