The composition of Japanese Silhouettes arose from two projects that Klebanov was working on towards the end of his life: a work for viola d'amore for his friend Mela Tenenbaum, and a piece for voice using Japanese haiku translated into Russian. The two projects were combined and completed at a composer's retreat in Warsaw and the work recorded for Kiev Radio. A performance was scheduled for the composer's 80th birthday celebrations in 1987, but Klebanov died just weeks before.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the work was thought lost, only a badly distorted tape from Kiev Radio remaining in the possession of Mela Tenenbaum, now living in the United States. Eventually the work's dedicatee, the conductor Igor Blazhkov, located the manuscript and a new set of parts was created.
A colourful work with a myriad of percussion and the aforementioned, and unusual, viola d'amore part, Japanese Silhouettes manages to suggest the mystery of the far east within a conventional western tonal language. Essentially two pieces in one, each movement is given an evocative title and begins with the purity of the soprano's voice, before the impassioned emotions of the viola d'amore take over. Only in the last movement are the two solo instruments combined.