Since the death of Schnittke, I've been pinning for a living composer to be my idol. Enter Sofia Gubaidulina! Finally, a blood and guts Russian composer whose intensely personal art is as expressive and heartfelt as it is steely cerebral and expertly constructed. No western, running-dog-lackey, latte sipping, interior design show decadence for this vodka lovin' gal. May she take a Russian Cossack sword to your Starbucks table! Whack!
The first stellar piece on this CD is `Fachwerk' (2009) for accordion and orchestra. It opens with this amazing sus accordion, to harp arpeggio, followed by a five octave gliss through the entire string orchestra (which is very familiar?--is it Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream?) Anyway the music never flags, Mussorgskyish in its juxtapositions, harmonic boldness and triumphalism. The gliss. eventually transforms into extremely dangerous chromaticism (Erwartung on Quaaludes) and is so fresh and stern at the same time, it reminds me of animation music for religious correction and reproof. The string gliss continues being transformed in a million different ways, all the post-modern juxtapositions of the permutations being reminiscent of my past fav, Schnittke. Also, The shear brilliance of the orchestration put it easily into the spectral camp of eastern block composers. The accordion part keeps expanding exponentially and by the middle is sonically huge (overdubbing?). The piece eventually reaches a mind numbing climax with is followed by a slow movement. Here a circle of fifths moves through all 12 keys making a connection to the 5 octave gliss. There's lots of Siberia like-type space and breathing here (in the slow movement), as there is throughout the piece-the sign of a real master. After a while, you start to realize you've been listening to the same gesture over and over again, like a slow motion Cossack sword coming down on your head forever, over and over! The only down side is Sofia could never match that climax before the slow movement when she comes to the final climax at the end. She wouldn't be the first composer that ran out of bullets (ask Custer)--despite that, this is truly an amazing piece. May western composers be shipped to the gulag post-haste, no foam, for correction and reproof.
The second cut, Silenzio for violin, cello and accordion (1989) is equally enthralling although completely opposite in mood and intent. It's a five movement work that barely gets louder than a pp and consists of long microtonal sustains from which flows various short melodic fragments. It is like the most personal of Bergman film, delicate, deeply refined reflection on mankind's interior life. Built into the structure of the piece is basically the cello gets higher as the violin gets lower, inverting the same plaintive melodic fragments, until the two instruments are at the top and bottom of their respective registers. Meanwhile the accordion throughout is sustaining and mirroring the main pitch sets, almost like reverb or delay, bathing the whole progression in a dream-like resonance. Another great piece!
Please buy every CD Sofia ever made so she can retire to a nice Dacha on the Black Sea and churn out more amazing music. -Signed her new agent and #1 fan!