About this Recording
8.553557 - GUBAIDULINA: Seven Words / Silenzio / In Croce

Sofia Gubaidulina (b

Sofia Gubaidulina (b.1931)


ln croce, for bayan and cello

Silenzio, for bayan, violin and cello

Sieben Worte (Seven Words), for cello, bayan and strings


The composer Sofia Gubaidulina was born in Chistopol' in the Tatar Soviet Republic in 1931 and studied the piano at the Music Academy in Kazan after the war. ln 1949 she entered the Kazan Conservatory where she studied composition with Leman and subsequently with Nikolay Peyko, a pupil of Myaskovsky and Rakov. She continued her studies with Vissarion Shebalin, another pupil of Myaskovsky. She had encouragement from Dmitry Shostakovich, who advised her to ignore hostile criticism from the officiaI musical establishment, and earned a living in Russia principally by writing film music, while her other music was more widely heard abroad. With political changes in the Soviet Union she was able to travel outside the country, and since 1992 has lived in a small town near Hamburg.


In croce, for cello and bayan, the Russian push-button accordion, was written in 1979 for the Russian cellist Vladimir Toncha. First composed for cello and organ, the work was performed by Toncha and the organist Oleg Yanchenko in the concert hall of Moscow Conservatory .With the accordionist Elsbeth Moser Gubaidulina made an alternative arrangement for cello and bayan in 1992. The title In croce is taken not only frorn the basic nature of the work but also refers to its structure. While the instruments at the beginning play either in a high register (bayan) or in low register (cello), in the course of the composition they come closer to each other and cross. When the two melodic lines cross, this forms the climax, an explosion of energy. The characteristic tonal and instrumental symbolism depends also on the functional use of the two instruments. Although both have a common starting-point in the pedal E, they treat this in different ways. One may compare only the struggles of the cello with shrill accents, chromaticism and micro-intervals to free itself from the pedal-point with the shimmering figuration of the pedal-point in the bayan part, where A major appears as a broken triad and also in the form of a diatonic scale. Here there is also thesis and antithesis at the same time, a union of opposites. Profounder symbolism appears in the coda, when both instruments after the stormy and passionate climax come together again, the cello with its quasi-human voice making its own the ethereally illuminated figuration over the pedal-point E that was heard at the beginning from the bayan. They free themselves finally in the irridescent sound of the overtone series on the A string. In croce is a true meditation on the meaning of Cross.


Silenzio, a set of five pieces for bayan, violin and cello, is dedicated to Elsbeth Moser, whose personality served as inspiration for the work. She gave the first performance in Hanover in 1991 with the violinist Kathrin Rabus and cellist Christoph Marks. The greater part of the work, the composer explains, is to be played pianissimo. She did not have the intention of expressing silence or creating such an impression. Silence is for her the foundation from which something grows. Exact rhythmic proportions are made which appear in all five miniatures in different ways, at times hidden, at times in the form of proportions of note length. In the last miniature the hidden and the open are brought together in a synthesis: in the course of the whole movement we hear significantly formulated rhythmic sequences in the bayan part (quasi variations on a rhythm). It is the same rhythm that can also be heard in the relationship to each other of the formal sections, 7- 2- 5.


Sieben Worte (Seven Words), for cello, bayan and strings, was written in 1982 and first performed in Moscow in the same year, with the cellist Vladimir Toncha and accordion-player Friedrich Lips, to whom the work is dedicated. The composer acknowledges her debt to long-standing cultural tradition, to which Heinrich Schütz contributed in his Die sieben Worte unseres lieben Erlb'sers und Seeligmachers Jesu Christi so er am Stamm des heiligen Creutzes gesprochen (The Seven Last Words of Our Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ spoken on the Holy Cross) and to which Haydn also added. The Christian basis of the work was concealed at the first Moscow performance but is clear enough, even without the present title and the composer's own explanation. Sofia Gubaidulina explains that naturally no purely instrumental work can express the biblical text. Here there are rather, in purely instrumental sounds, metaphorical gestures and in this respect the two solo instruments, bayan and cello, and the string orchestra provided ample material: l am thinking, for example, of the long-drawn sounds of the ce//o, crossed through glissandi of the neighbouring strings. In the bayan this crossing with the orchestra takes place with the help of pressure on neighbouring keys. In the string orchestra there is the possibility of glissando crossings from unison to multi-octave textures and again back to unison (the .figure of the Cross). When the cello bow goes behind the bridge, this is, as it were, the entry to another world. These instrumental metaphors form the thematic foundation of the work, which unfolds in the course of six movements with the continual increase in tension. At the end of the sixth movement (It is accomplished) the tension is broken: the bow plays on the bridge, and in the seventh movement the bow crosses the bridge and the limits of the instrument. This basic thematic material for the solo instruments is in contrast to the music for the string orchestra, which in character is reminiscent of choral writing. To these two thematic schemes is added the threefold repetition of a five-bar quotation from the work of Heinrich Schütz, the melody of the cry "I thirst". This figure has an essential structural function.


Keith Anderson

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