Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sofia Gubaidulina, Part 8

Sofia Gubaidulina in 1969 speaking at a Moscow Youth Musical Club concert

I don't have a photo from 1973, so the one above will have to do. The year 1973 was marked by several important events in Gubaidulina's life. She separated from her second husband Nikolai Bokov (nicknamed "Kolya") and wrote her first work for large orchestra "Steps" ("Stufen" in German). Here is the description of the piece from Kurtz' biography of the composer:
The work is composed in the form of seven descending steps: the orchestral timbre and tone color undergo gradual transformation, moving downward from high to low register. A moment of stasis and rest marks the end of each episode. The descending motion is enhanced by a continual expansion of the sound spectrum: from the cold, impersonal sonority of the instruments at the beginning to the rich sound palette of a thirty-part string section at the climax, and, finally, all the way to the dark, chaotically vibrant whisper of the human voice at the seventh step. At this point each member of the orchestra speaks the opening lines of "Vom Tode Mariae," from Rilke's poetic cycle Das Marienleben:
The same great angel, who once
Brought to her tidings of her birth,
Stood there, waiting for her attention,
And said: “Now is the time for you to appear.”
In this recording of the piece, the spoken text is by overlapping speakers and, I believe, is delivered in Russian. Blogger won't embed the YouTube clip for some reason, so just follow the link. Currently there are only 48 views of this piece!

I'm still not sure why I find the music of Gubaidulina so listenable even when it uses the most advanced sorts of textures and idioms. But I do. Perhaps it is because tying together all these technical devices is an underlying musical purpose and design.


Christopher Culver said...

It’s incredible that you have written eight posts now on Gubaidulina and talked about why you like her music, but you are still in her juvenalia period. The music Gubaidulina wrote before 1978 in general, and especially before 1981 when she first began constructing the form of her pieces according to a principle of numerical mysticism, is very different from her mature work.

For my part, the good stuff from Gubaidulina runs from 1978 (Introitus) to roughly 2006 (The Lyre of Orpheus). Unfortunately, inspiration has run dry in the years since and the new works are fashioned out of a series of always the same stock gestures, about as repetitive from piece to piece as late Messiaen.

Incidentally, I find the Kurtz biography pretty skimpy on information. I would strongly recommend tracking down Enzo Restagno’s Gubajdulina (Torino: EDT, 1991), which has pretty detailed descriptions of most of her works up to that time. There’s also a long interview inside, something like 100 pages; Restagno was a very good interviewer of contemporary composers.

Bryan Townsend said...

I have quite enjoyed working my way through her earlier pieces. These are also very short posts, so there are a lot more to come!

Thanks for your thoughts--always nice to know that people are reading these posts! Also thanks for the tip about the Enzo Restagno bio, but there is no trace of it at Amazon.

Christopher Culver said...

The Restagno book is available at Amazon (with a review by yours truly).

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks Chrisopher. I went to Amazon and searched with author's name and "Gubaidulina" and nothing came up!