Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sofia Gubaidulina, Part 7

Continuing our journey of discovery through the music of Gubaidulina. The Composers Union has a creative retreat in the town of Sortavala in Karelia where she had spent a few weeks in the summer of 1970. In the fall of 1971 she returned there and found the peaceful solitude immensely stimulating. She proceeded to write her first string quartet to test some musical possibilities. She later wrote about the piece in these words:
The idea of disintegration, dissociation, lies at the heart of the First Quartet. I have to say that there is a certain amount of pessimism in it, a metaphor for the impossibility of togetherness, of understanding one's neighbor, a metaphor for the utter deafness of humanity (life itself in those years was so dark, so sad and hopeless...) The work grows out of a single pitch, from a common point. But various aspects of the musical material--the rhythmic and melodic successions, the types of articulation, and the dynamics--gradually begin to contradict one another. [quoted in Kurtz, p. 97]
There is a performance on YouTube by the Molinari Quartet, so let's have a listen. No score, alas!

In early 1972 Boris Berman commissioned Gubaidulina to compose a piece for harpsichord and percussion. She ended up selecting three instruments from the collection of Mark Pekarsky, the chang, a dulcimer-like instrument from Central Asia, byan chung (Chinese bells), and Chinese cymbals. To these she added antique cymbals. The piece was premiered in April 1972 and received a very enthusiastic response from the audience. Sadly, this piece does not seem to be available on YouTube. I have posted this before, but never mind, let's have a listen to In the Beginning Was Rhythm, written in 1984:

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