Author Topic: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)  (Read 8120 times)

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Offline Brewski

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Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« on: February 14, 2008, 11:30:52 AM »
This Saturday night, the new music group Continuum is doing an all-Ustvolskaya program:

Sonata for Violin and Piano (1952)
Composition No. 2 "Dies irae" - 8 double basses, piano, percussion (1973)
Symphony No. 4 "Prayer" - for voice, trumpet, tam-tam, piano (1987)
Piano Sonata No. 6 (1988)
Symphony No. 5 "Amen" - speaker, oboe, trumpet, tuba, violin, percussion (1990)

I heard the Composition No. 2 last year at the Bang on a Can Festival, and it's more than a little unusual: the percussion is a huge wooden block struck with a mallet.  It is very stark, as I gather most of her work is, but I was thinking about it for days afterward.  I don't think I've heard much else.

Other fans, comments, concert experiences or recordings? 

--Bruce
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Offline edward

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2008, 11:58:54 AM »
I'm very jealous. I've loved Ustvolskaya's music for a long time: yes, it's extremely one-dimensional but it does that dimension almost perfectly. If you want pesante quarter notes, obsessive repetition, innovatively gloomy tone colours and so on, there's no better choice!

One good thing about Ustvolskaya's tiny output is that pretty much all of it is music at the highest level. Of the pieces you're seeing, I think the violin sonata is the only comparatively weak one. Everything else strikes me as Ustvolskaya at her best, with the amazing Sixth Sonata perhaps the quintessential work of hers (six minutes of fffff hammering on the piano keyboard, a brief quiet interlude, and then the hammering returns briefly).

I often think of Ustvolskaya as a gloomy counterpart to Scelsi. There's the same incredibly monolithic intensity, almost of religious fervour, and the same lack of interest in writing "normal" concert music.
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Offline Brewski

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2008, 12:06:59 PM »
Thanks so much, edward--I figured you might chime in!  :D 

"...it's extremely one-dimensional but it does that dimension almost perfectly."  That's kind of the impression I get from reading articles about some of those pieces--that they're sort of doggedly single-minded (not that this is a minus, necessarily) and all rather austere.

I'm not sure who will be playing the piano sonata, since both of the groups directors (Joel Sachs and Cheryl Seltzer) play, but your description makes it sound very enticing.

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Offline Brewski

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2008, 11:06:00 AM »
One good thing about Ustvolskaya's tiny output is that pretty much all of it is music at the highest level. Of the pieces you're seeing, I think the violin sonata is the only comparatively weak one. Everything else strikes me as Ustvolskaya at her best, with the amazing Sixth Sonata perhaps the quintessential work of hers (six minutes of fffff hammering on the piano keyboard, a brief quiet interlude, and then the hammering returns briefly).

I often think of Ustvolskaya as a gloomy counterpart to Scelsi. There's the same incredibly monolithic intensity, almost of religious fervour, and the same lack of interest in writing "normal" concert music.

Edward, after hearing the concert you pretty much nailed the music.  The Sixth piano sonata is truly, one long burst of loud chords, except for those four or five measures near the end when it calms down ever-so-briefly--a little oasis--and then the loudness returns, straight through to the end.  And I was struck right off by the Symphony No. 4, which despite its grand title, is only about five minutes long, for four players.

And the Scelsi comparison seems very apt.  I also thought of Webern, but Webern deploys so many more zillions of colors...obviously his intentions were completely different from hers.   

Afterward, got to speak at length with Jared Soldiviero, the superb percussionist, about the wooden block (used in two of the pieces), in which he found remarkable expressivity.  Using two hammers, one on top and one on one side, he achieved a slightly different timbre in each case.  And now and then he used both hammers to create a sort of stark drumroll.

I don't know that I could listen to a lot of her output, a lot of the time--it's just so stark and severe--but I couldn't stop thinking about it afterward, and have been replaying moments in my head all weekend. 

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Offline Brewski

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2008, 10:22:05 AM »
Forgot to post the link here, to my review of the Ustvolskaya concert.  I must say, it's music that you don't easily forget!

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

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Offline bumtz

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2012, 05:42:37 AM »
Ustvolskaya website is pretty informative. I was particularly interested to learn about her opinions of the recorded performances of her works (and yes, she seems to have disliked many of them). It's available both in Russian and English: http://ustvolskaya.org

Offline Joaquimhock

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2012, 08:25:38 AM »
I admire GU music a lot, but it is strange and not very serious to me to see on a website dedicated to her music a long page with extracts of letters and interviews by famous musicians such as Boulez or E P Salonen only speaking about the fact that they hate Shostakovich's music...  http://ustvolskaya.org/eng/dsch.php#80

She had a very strange relation with DS but that's not a reason to dedicated a page to such opinions. What they mean? Mr X and Mr Y don't like DS so GU is great...?
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Offline springrite

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2012, 08:31:27 AM »
Love her piano sonatas. Not many notes, and very primitive sounding, they are intriguing and often powerful.

There was a very good article about her in IPQ (International Piano Quarterly) about a dozen years ago which prompted my interest in her.
Do what I must do, and let what must happen happen.

Offline bumtz

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2012, 02:29:15 PM »
I admire GU music a lot, but it is strange and not very serious to me to see on a website dedicated to her music a long page with extracts of letters and interviews by famous musicians such as Boulez or E P Salonen only speaking about the fact that they hate Shostakovich's music...  http://ustvolskaya.org/eng/dsch.php#80

She had a very strange relation with DS but that's not a reason to dedicated a page to such opinions. What they mean? Mr X and Mr Y don't like DS so GU is great...?
Perhaps because every time she is talked about it is mentioned that she is "Shostakovich's student" or "influenced by Shostakovich". I guess the website moderators wanted to put the record straight as far as her relationships with Shostakovich and his music are concerned. They might be using other people's quotes about Shostakovich they are something Ustvolskaya agreed with, but chose not to express herself (looks like she did not talk that much in general).   

snyprrr

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2013, 03:22:19 PM »
bump for l8r

snyprrr

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2013, 08:37:41 PM »
Her music IS very cleansing. A little dab'll do ya.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2014, 08:59:24 AM »
I'll just point out the outstanding and rare recording of the 2nd sonata, played by Vedernikov, is here for the taking

http://panovnik.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/anatoly-vedernikov-scriabin.html

I think some of the comments above don't do justice to the variety that I find in her music. I recommend very highly the recording of the preludes by John Arden.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

snyprrr

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2014, 06:08:55 PM »
I'll just point out the outstanding and rare recording of the 2nd sonata, played by Vedernikov, is here for the taking

http://panovnik.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/anatoly-vedernikov-scriabin.html

I think some of the comments above don't do justice to the variety that I find in her music. I recommend very highly the recording of the preludes by John Arden.

I hear none of the orchestral discs are worthy representations. What of the Philips?

I thought it was her Piano Music in 'Eyes Wide Shut'!! ???

snyprrr

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2014, 01:24:27 PM »
try try again

Offline EigenUser

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2014, 02:51:14 PM »
try try again
I've heard the Grand Duet for cello and piano, along with a few other works that seemed to be rather forgettable. I really, really liked the Grand Duet. Makes me wish I had a cello!

Rough lady, though. I read a story where she agreed to an interview as long as there were no cameras filming. Someone decided to film anyways. She went over to the camera and broke it.
Beethoven's Op. 133 -- A fugue so bad that even Beethoven himself called it "Grosse".

snyprrr

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Re: Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2014, 11:19:50 AM »
I've heard the Grand Duet for cello and piano, along with a few other works that seemed to be rather forgettable. I really, really liked the Grand Duet. Makes me wish I had a cello!

Rough lady, though. I read a story where she agreed to an interview as long as there were no cameras filming. Someone decided to film anyways. She went over to the camera and broke it.

Yo- she fucked DSCH's shit UP yo

"Ewwww... Noooo!!... You're so creepy!! Ewwww!!"


snyprrr

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A Most Uncompromising Woman Galina Ustvolskaya
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2014, 11:40:59 AM »
Surely we all agree that Galina Ustvolskaya has written some of the starkest in all of history, far surpassing most all of her male colleagues in a pursuit that challenges ears to this day. I can only think of the obsessive apocalypse of Scelsi to rival.

Similarly, the music of Gloria Coates is as forbidding and alien as anything, and similarly unique. In fact, many of the women of the most extreme Modernism are in fact some of the absolute best examples of an Individualist's path. We have discussed Jolas and de Chizy. Van de Vate gives Penderecki a run for his money. Chin currently reigns supreme.

Saariaho, Gubaidulina,... whether you 'like' their music or not, I suspect most of you have at least a certain amount of respect, and for no other reason than you hear an Individualist's voice. I am simply pointing out that it seems curious to me- since women in general aren't really known as the greatest fans of Avant Garde Music- that the women who do venture into The Beyond end up with results that are so striking in the face of even their greatest male counterparts. And, just to be cheeky, let me ask: Who makes a greater... mm... "impact" on you initially- Boulez or Ustvolskaya? All I'm saying is that her style is so inscrutable - almost beyond the call of duty- and yet it seems to me that the women that all of us Modern-philes enjoy are almost all exclusively and uniformly outstanding in terms of... just... doing things differently, and having style.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2014, 12:37:47 PM by knight66 »

ibanezmonster

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Re: A Most Uncompromising Woman
« Reply #17 on: September 04, 2014, 12:52:42 PM »
Any Ustvolskaya recommendations? Her reputation for creating such extreme, alien music intrigues me.

Offline EigenUser

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Re: A Most Uncompromising Woman
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2014, 05:03:05 PM »
Any Ustvolskaya recommendations? Her reputation for creating such extreme, alien music intrigues me.
Yes, the Grand Duet for cello and piano is extremely powerful. The 2nd symphony is very bizarre. I didn't care for it, but it might be what you are looking for.
Beethoven's Op. 133 -- A fugue so bad that even Beethoven himself called it "Grosse".

ibanezmonster

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Re: A Most Uncompromising Woman
« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2014, 05:09:54 PM »
Yes, the Grand Duet for cello and piano is extremely powerful. The 2nd symphony is very bizarre. I didn't care for it, but it might be what you are looking for.
I listened to the first half of the Grand Duet and will have to get back to that one. Will check out Symphony #2...