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Descriptions du produit
Sofia Gubaidulina, one of the most distinct composers of the present time, says of herself that she is a daughter of two worlds, whose soul lives in the music of both the West and East. From her fathers side, her life was entered by the world of Islamic culture, while her mother introduced her to Christianity, in which she found her identity in the Orthodox faith. Her quest for a singular style was strongly influenced by the legacies of J. S. Bach and Anton Webern, as well as Dmitri Shostakovich, who encouraged her to remain herself and continue down the mistaken path for which she was criticised by the guardians of aesthetic correctness in the Soviet Union. Gubaidulinas personal story is one of a struggle to live in truth, conducted with calm, patience, perseverance and inner conviction. The five string quartets represent a singular journey towards a vision of freedom beyond the borders of any system: she extracts the material from beyond major-minor tonality, using micro-intervals, serial techniques, aleatory elements, unusual playing methods, thus revealing previously unthought-of acoustic possibilities of instruments, including the space itself, the movement of musicians, etc. The Stamic Quartet, an ensemble representing the famous Czech quartet school, is an attentive interpreter of the first complete recording.
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The String Quartet No. 1 (1970) is an early piece that Gubaidulina wrote before she had found her distinctive voice and, in retrospect, it comes across as a fairly dry exploration of extended techniques, chromaticism and microtonal writing that go beyond what the Soviet canon then permitted. It is disturbingly representative, a "metaphor for the impossibility of togetherness". The players begin with the same material but find it increasingly difficult to return to a unison. In live performance they gradually move their chairs away from each other to the four corners of the stage and by the end they are playing unsynchronized. We really miss out on this crucial aspect to the piece in a mere audio recording.
The following quartets represent Gubaidulina's mature style. This is marked by contemplative programmes, which are sometimes, though not here, overtly Orthodox Christian, and numerical mysticism, i.e. proportions determined by the Fibonacci Sequence and such. As the String Quartet No. 2 (1987) opens, the music pulses around a G held by the second violin on the open string. This single pitch is gradually embellished and strayed from by the other players. (The comparison that readily comes to mind is Jonathan Harvey's String Quartet No. 1.) Eventually D comes to join G as a central tone, and in Gubaidulina's meditative music this kind of shift is charged with dramatic power -- does it represent the Incarnation?
The String Quartet No. 3 (1987) is divided into two halves, of which the first is placed pizzicato and the second half with bows. A significant part of the pizzicato half is metreless, and in the bowed half one or two instruments are often playing aleatorically (a wavy line in the score) while the others play defined pitches. There's a memorable ending where each instrument in turn plays a glissando from C-sharp to the very top of its range.
The Stamic Quartet's main competition for the Second and Third are the Arditti Quartet's early 1990s recordings 1 2. The Stamic hold their own very well in the Second, though I slightly prefer the Ardittis. However, in the Third the Stamic manage to refine a piece I've found hard to get into, to the point that I wouldn't exactly rank it as one of Gubaidulina's masterpieces, but speaks to me more than the Arditti Quartet's recording.
With the String Quartet No. 4 (1994), Gubaidulina introduces a tape part consisting of the sounds of balls being bounced off the strings and conventional string playing shifted a quarter tone up. The live musicians then enter into dialogue with this prerecorded music, the quarter-tone gap creating a dialectic of light and darkness (coloured lights are also specified in the scoring, but we sadly miss out on that hearing just a CD). Gubaidulina wrote this for the Kronos Quartet, who recorded it on their CD Night Prayers. The Stamic Quartet give just as worthy a reading, but one clearly better informed by a long acquaintance with Gubaidulina's music, and here it sounds more like a successor to the Second and Third.
Finally, "Reflections on the Theme B-A-C-H" for string quartet (2002) maintains Gubaidulina's mature style but mixes in allusions to Baroque style in order to pay tribute to Gubaidulina's first and foremost inspiration. It may be seen as more austere than her earlier music in that there are moments where only one instrument plays while the others remain silent.
While the Arditti Quartet recordings may be better introductions to some of these quartets inasmuch as they have nice couplings (Bartók, Schnittke, Kurtág, Lutoslawski), fans of Gubaidulina would find this disc a great addition to their collection.