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This review is from: The Canticle Of The Sun (Audio CD)
Although this, the second all-Gubaidulina release on ECM, carries the title of one her best-known pieces "Canticle of the Sun", of at least equal interest should be the first recording of the other composition "Lyre of Orpheus", which was both premiered and recorded in 2006 by Gidon Kremer and his touring ensemble. This 24-minute piece for strings and percussion can be given a clear psychological interpretation with the key word being pain, meaning the pain felt after losing a daughter in a car accident, as in fact happened to Gubaidulina in 2004. The accident itself is portrayed at around the 15 minute mark, it is preceded by frightened premonitions of the event and followed by a graphic representation of the various stages that follow such a loss, like shock, anger, despair, realization and finally resignation. I can clearly remember reading this interpretation at the time of the premiere of what as a result is a very powerful and harrowing piece but strangely enough it is not mentioned in the booklet, where instead a purely music-theoretical and somewhat hard-to-follow explanation is given which is very much at odds with the obvious emotional impact of this piece.
The Canticle has been recorded at least three times before, initially by its dedicatee Rostropovich, and on this recording Nicolas Altstaedt gives an equally eloquent and pronounced reading of the main cello part. Gubaidulina's magical ritualistic meditation on big themes Life, Death, the Sun and the Moon and the four ancient elements is given a meticulous reading here, for me the choir stands out in particular as well, being from Latvia where all the best choirs seem to originate these days.
Both these live and well engineered recordings were made at Kremer's yearly Lockenhaus Festival in Austria, which is appropriate as that is the place where Gubaidulina's growing exposure outside of Russia more or less started after her visit there in 1986.