Author Topic: Gubaidulina's Canticle  (Read 8128 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Gubaidulina's Canticle
« on: November 17, 2010, 03:50:51 PM »
I did not see a thread specifically about this composer, so here it is:
 

"I am a religious person...and by 'religion' I mean re-ligio, the re-tying of a bond...restoring the legato of life. Life divides man into many pieces...There is no weightier occupation than the recomposition of spiritual integrity through the composition of music." -- Sofiya Gubaydulina

In Russian composer Sofiya Gubaydulina's 1986 symphony Slïshu...umolko ("I hear...silence"), the composer writes a cadenza for conductor. The orchestra is largely silent save for a few rumblings from bass drums, during which the conductor melds this quasi-silence into strong but delicate contours; with agonizingly slow precision, the conductor eventually brings his hands upwards, tracing a Christmas-tree shape, until they are fully stretched towards the heavens. He flips his hands upwards, and the organ, nestled deep in the orchestra, catches the gesture and begins the symphony's apocalyptic final movement. The gesture is wonderfully symbolic of Gubaydulina's work in general, obsessed as it is with the "other sides" of music -- with "re-tying the bonds" between gesture and sound, sound and silence, silence and noise, this sensate world and the super-sensate next. From early works like Night in Memphis (1968) through the now classic Offertorium and Seven Last Words of the early '80s, and up to the Double Viola Concerto "Two Paths" from 1999, Gubaydulina's music traces an impassioned commitment "to restore a sense of integrity" to both art and life. In this sense her music is unabashedly re-ligious: it finds and binds the fissures which mark human solitude, with a brazen honesty rare in music even today.

Sofia Asgatovna Gubaydulina was born on October 24, 1931, in Chistopol', in the Tatar Republic; growing up there, Gubaydulina would bind peculiar fusion of Eastern and Western into dramatic polarities in her later work. She graduated from the Kazan' Conservatory in 1954 having studied composition and piano; she then left for Moscow, where she studied at the Conservatory with Nikolay Peyko until 1959, and then with Shebalin until 1963. Already by this time, Gubaydulina was marked as an "irresponsible" composer on "a mistaken path"; Shostakovich, among others, supported her however, advising her to "continue along [her] mistaken path." By the mid-1970s Gubaydulina founded a folk-instrument improvisation group with fellow composers Victor Suslin and Vyacheslav Artyomov called Astreja, still active in the late 1990s. Today Gubaydulina is a successful freelance composer, having won a number of prestigious composition prizes and grants.

In many ways, the cross is the most potent symbol in Gubaydulina's work -- it is the consummate node of intersection, the site of re-tying both as a mark of salvation and greatest suffering. So many of her works contain cross imagery, often through elaborate, predestined meeting-and-diverging points for distinct sounding bodies or musical concepts. Hence the great "crossings" of 1979's In Croce (between cello and organ), 1981's Rejoice (cello and violin), 1982's Seven Last Words (cello, bayan, and strings), and 1980's Offertorium (violin and orchestra). And in the 12-movement symphony, the crux occurs between sound (the orchestra) and silence itself (the pantomiming conductor), each on its own desperately etched trajectory. But what perhaps most astonishing about Gubaydulina's music is how, amidst such formally rigorous edifices (the cross, the mass-sequence, the Fibonacci series), a voice of such supple, passionate directness arises. Gubaydulina's work, even while unfolding an apocalyptic itinerary, often sounds breathed out in the moment, in- and ex-pired, systolic and organic; filaments or melody float, buffet, and fall, even as a musical cataclysm ferments. This tight religious knot of opposites may well account for Gubaydulina's success in the West in the late twentieth century; she is now certainly considered one of the most important composers alive today.
 
[Article taken from All Music Guide]
 
I haven't heard but one of her works, the Viola Concerto and was really enchanted with it from start to finish. The work had this very ethereal quality to it. What do you guys think about her music in general?
 
To those who enjoy her music, where would you recommend I go next?
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Brahmsian

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2010, 04:17:08 PM »
I strongly recommend this disc, which includes Gubaidulina's Violin Concerto 'In Tempus Praesens'

« Last Edit: November 17, 2010, 04:18:45 PM by ChamberNut »

DavidW

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2010, 04:22:45 PM »
I have this disc, features an excellent string quartet (the others on the disc are great too):



 :)

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2010, 05:00:28 PM »
OFFERTORIUM
Gubaidulina's violin concerto, Offertorium (1980, revised 1982 & 1986), was one of her first works to become known outside the Soviet Union. It's a moving and virtuosic piece, built entirely around the theme of J.S. Bach's Musical Offering, which is stated at the beginning, spread between different instruments in the style of Webern's orchestral transcription of the work. For Gubaidulina, Offertorium represents an attempt "...to unite the two personalities in the history of music who have produced the greatest impression on me." In the first part of the work's single movement the theme is heard several times, but with each variation it gradually disintegrates; by the end of Offertorium the theme has been transfigured and is played in retrograde by the soloist - a moment of calm beauty and resolution.



One of the best performances comes from Gidon Kremer, for whom the work was written; his passionate account is coupled with Hommage a T.S. Eliot (1987) for soprano and octet.

Yes, thanks for the information, James. I bought this recording today actually. Can't wait to hear it.
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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2010, 06:16:42 PM »
For me Gubaidulina was at her best between 1980 and 2002. Her development of forms based on the Fibonacci sequence, and later the Lucas and Evangelist series as well, gave a peculiar quality to her music, as if time itself was sanctified. Pro et contra, Perception and the Symphony are long works with portions of minimal content, but they never drag, they never try my patience, for the proportions of the music at both the large scale and the small are simply perfect.

However, since finishing her Passion and Easter according to St John (IMO her masterpiece) the goodness of her music has dropped off precipitously. Some works like In tempus praesens just seem collections of stock gestures, like late Messiaen. Other pieces are explorations of timbre that seem mere sketches for some forthcoming great work, but that work never comes.

Sid

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2010, 09:10:44 PM »
I have this cd, which is a good introduction of her chamber music (me being more into chamber) -


This music is a bit hit and miss with me. Gubaidulina seems a bit like Hovhaness, she likes to compose music with a certain (ersatz?) spirituality. Sometimes I just wish she'd lighten up a bit. Does all her music HAVE to be spiritual and religious? In Seven Words, the string work reminds me a bit of Sibelius - icy and distanced. In contrast, the cello and accordion soloists' work is more emotionally involved and expressive, imo. Some of this stuff would not be out of place in horror films - it's spooky, quirky & wierd (perhaps I mean that in a good way?). But it's good to hear the Russian button accordion (the bayan), because it's not that often heard. Some of these works were originally written for organ, and then transcribed for the bayan. When the air is let out of the accordion, it sounds a bit like the sighs of Christ on the cross. I'm pretty sure that this was intentional on the composer's part. When I got this cd, it sounded pretty novel, but now that the novelty has worn off, I feel as if I'm left with very little. But I will give it a relisten tonight if I'm in the mood. I have heard a bit of Offertorium but it just seemed to be covering ground that had already been gone over in the above works. The Mutter recording is in my local library & I plan to borrow it at some stage.

But the way in which Gubaidulina stuck at her "incorrect path" amidst the anti-religious regime she was living under (the USSR) is pretty inspiring, imo. It was a courageous thing for her to compose music which was blatantly religious in that kind of hostile climate. Artists in the West cannot begin to imagine the nature of how it is (or would be) living under a dictatorship which tries to control and censor everything which they see as a threat...
« Last Edit: November 17, 2010, 09:29:02 PM by Sid »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2010, 09:31:54 PM »
I have heard a bit of Offertorium but it just seemed to be covering ground that had already been gone over in the above works. The Mutter recording is in my local library & I plan to borrow it at some stage...

Apart of any art is that it progresses, Gubaidulina is progressing in the sense that she has found her style and, like Part or Schnittke, she continues to develop on this style. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss a major work like Offertorium just yet. You have only heard this composition in bits and pieces? It's funny a year ago, you were telling me to not rush to judgement about the composer Frank Martin, but after all is said and done, you ended up doing the same thing I did. Oh, the irony... :D
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Sid

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2010, 10:02:28 PM »
I don't think I'm doing the same thing as you did. My review of that Gubaidulina chamber cd was pretty mixed. I noted some things I thought were good, as well as offering some criticisms. Perhaps I should have withheld judgement on Offertorium, since I haven't heard all of it, but I did say that it only seemed to cover ground that had already been trodden on by the composer (& CRCulver made some similar points above). I've been listening to the Naxos chamber disc for over a year, and (of course) my impressions of the music have changed over that time (just as your opinion of things like Frank Martin have changed). I'm leaving the door open to Gubaidulina, and (in fact) aim to listen to that disc tonight when I get home. I'll post some more solid impressions of it here or in the latest listening thread when I get the chance...
« Last Edit: November 17, 2010, 10:07:31 PM by Sid »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2010, 10:11:55 PM »
I don't think I'm doing the same thing as you did. My review of that Gubaidulina chamber cd was pretty mixed. I noted some things I thought were good, as well as offering some criticisms. Perhaps I should have withheld judgement on Offertorium, since I haven't heard all of it, but I did say that it only seemed to cover ground that had already been trodden on by the composer (& CRCulver made some similar points above). I'm leaving the door open to Gubaidulina, and (in fact) aim to listen to that Naxos chamber disc tonight when I get home. I'll post some more solid impressions of it here or in the latest listening thread when I get the chance...

I'm not talking about the chamber music disc you critiqued above, I was talking about Offertorium, which is a work of a completely different atmosphere altogether.
 
Anyway, it doesn't matter to me what anybody thinks in the end, I like a lot of music that a lot of other people don't and I'm listening to Reich's Music for 18 Musicians right now and how many classical listeners do you know who have dismissed this piece? Probably all of the conservative listeners who think classical died after Beethoven or Schubert. These peole make me so f****** mad. They don't have a damn clue about music. All they care about is hearing Beethoven's 9th for the hundredth time, so they can leave the concert halls "satisfied." If I go to a concert, I'm going to make sure there's not a workhorse on the programme and that they're playing all 20th Century works.
 
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2010, 11:28:38 PM »
I have heard a bit of Offertorium but it just seemed to be covering ground that had already been gone over in the above works.

Hearing a bit of this piece is really no way to judge it. Set aside some time and give it your full attention. That's what I did the first time I tackled it, in the dark with the headphones on. It made a great impression.
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Scarpia

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2010, 08:02:43 AM »
Well, failed to make it through the recording of the new violin concerto with Mutter.  I will put it aside and try again later.  One problem was reading the CD booklet.  Gubaidulina's discussion of the work seems to be mainly centered on the idea that the collaboration with Mutter is based on the fact that they have the same first name, and therefore share a deep bond.   Hard to divorce the impression of the music from the impression that the composer is a half-wit.   ::)
« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 03:35:16 AM by Scarpia »

Sid

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2010, 08:24:03 PM »
Hearing a bit of this piece is really no way to judge it. Set aside some time and give it your full attention. That's what I did the first time I tackled it, in the dark with the headphones on. It made a great impression.

It's true, I usually don't judge a piece after just a partial hearing. But I did revisit the Naxos chamber music disc above & I think that an aspect of her music which is difficult to stomach for me (& this is what I remember from Offertorium) are these parts where the instruments are pushed to the highest register. This seems to happen often in the pieces by her which I have (fully!) heard - the three on the Naxos chamber disc. I know that Xenakis & Messiaen used the same technique a lot - & they are amongst my favourite composers - but the way Gubaidulina does it seems much different. Not that that's a problem, but I just have to give the music more repeated listening & get my head around it.

Above I said her music sounds like the soundtrack to a horror movie and having re-read the Naxos cd's notes I was reminded how she worked for many years as a film composer. So no surprises there.

Well, failed to make it through the recording of the new violin concerto with Mutter.  I will put it aside and try again later.  One problem was reading the CD booklet.  Gubaidulina's discussion of the work seems to be mainly centered on the fact that the collaboration with Mutter is based on the fact that they have she same first name, and therefore share a deep bond.   Hard to divorce the impression of the music from the impression that the composer is a half-wit.   ::)


Well, Gubaidulina makes more sense in the notes of the Naxos cd, where she says the Seven Last Words (works of Schutz and Haydn) where very much on her mind when she composed her own work with that title (the title, because it was religious, had to be supressed at the Soviet premiere of the work in the early 1980's).

But true, not all composers are helpful in discussing their works. Boulez gets way too intellectual and above the average lay listener's head. One composer whose words I think are very helpful when seeking guidance about his music is Elliot Carter. He seems to cut to the chase & describe the things that motivated him to write his pieces in quite a direct, no nonsense way. Not all composers are like that, alas...

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2010, 04:39:59 PM »
I'm listening to Feast during a Plague again for the first time in a couple of years. It's just awful. I wonder if it will remain in Gubaidulina's catalogue when I can't imagine any ensemble ever taking it up again.

Offline lescamil

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2010, 09:07:22 PM »
I'm listening to Feast during a Plague again for the first time in a couple of years. It's just awful. I wonder if it will remain in Gubaidulina's catalogue when I can't imagine any ensemble ever taking it up again.

Where did you get this recording from? As far as I know, it is commercially unrecorded, and I haven't seen it pop up on broadcasts.
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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2010, 07:52:57 AM »
Where did you get this recording from? As far as I know, it is commercially unrecorded, and I haven't seen it pop up on broadcasts.

There's a (radio?) recording that floats around on filesharing networks.

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2010, 10:24:19 AM »
There's a (radio?) recording that floats around on filesharing networks.

Do you mind uploading it? Or can you point out where you got it from?
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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2010, 10:30:16 AM »
Do you mind uploading it? Or can you point out where you got it from?


Yes. No.

Offline lescamil

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2011, 01:57:14 PM »
Listening to Gubaidulina's Feast During a Plague right now (I managed to find it online), and I happen to like it a bit. That brass fanfare at the beginning sets up the piece quite well. I could see this piece getting more performances in the future with the right circumstances. It doesn't place as great a demand on the performers from what I can tell compared to some other mammoth works by Gubaidulina, some of which are performed more often than Feast is, such as Offertorium (again, from what I can tell looking at the scores), which I have seen pop up quite a bit on programs in recent years.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2011, 02:04:42 PM »
I had the great pleasure of hearing the premiere, in Philadelphia (and got to meet Gubaidulina, too, which I really enjoyed), and reviewed the concert here.

Then I heard the piece in New York a few months later by the Pittsburgh Symphony, and liked it even more after a second hearing.

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Offline CRCulver

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Re: Gubaidulina's Canticle
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2011, 02:23:25 PM »
Listening to Gubaidulina's Feast During a Plague right now (I managed to find it online), and I happen to like it a bit. That brass fanfare at the beginning sets up the piece quite well. I could see this piece getting more performances in the future with the right circumstances.

Beyond it just being an awful piece, I wonder if the lack of repeat performances is due to Rattle's involvement, as the previous piece that Gubaidulina wrote for him, Zeitgestalten is similarly little-performed. Perhaps she wished that only Rattle conduct this piece, and his busy schedule would mean that he can't get around to it again soon.