The Boston Symphony Orchestra (Conducted By: Charles Dutoit)
#1 - Gubaidulina Sofia: Offertorium - Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1980) Gidon Kremer - violin, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit, Recorded in 1988
#2-8 - Gubaidulina Sofia: Hommage a T. S. Eliot for Octet and Soprano (1987) Christine Whittlesey - soprano, Gidon Kremer - violin I, Isabelle van Keulen - violin II, Tabea Zimmermann - viola, David Geringas - cello, Alois Posch - double bass, Eduard Brunner - clarinet, Klaus Thunemann - bassoon, Radovan Vlatkovic - horn
Sofia Gubaidulina has emerged in a short time as one of the most original and powerful Russian composers of the late 20th century. Born in 1931 in Chistopol in the Soviet Tatar Republic, she grew up in Kazan, where she started piano lessons at the age of five and started composing early in order to have something more interesting to play than finger exercises. She began serious work in piano and composition at the Kazan Conservatory at 17, but her principal work took place at the Moscow Conservatory from 1954, where she studied with Nikolai Peiko and Vissarion Shebalin, completing her graduate degree in 1963. Already marked as an unorthodox composer who pursued a "mistaken path", she found lasting inspiration in the words of Dmitri Shostakovich, a member of the committee that evaluated her final examination: "I want you to continue along your mistaken path".
That path has remained a highly personal one. As Gubaidulina has noted: "I and others of my generation have tried to distance ourselves from politics, but the older generation in Russia didn't have that luxury." Since her first visit to the West in 1985, her international reputation has soared dramatically, with a host of major commissions from major European festivals and leading American orchestras, as well as numerous other ensembles and organizations. She now makes her home outside of Hamburg.
A conversation with Sofia Gubaidulina moves easily from technical discussion to interpretation, in which words like "spirit" or "mysticism" or "symbolism" occur frequently; she has little interest in novelty for its own sake. "It is the business of newspapers, journals, to be interested in news. But art should be interested in all the other things."
These "other things" are values of more permanent worth: meaning, and the expressive qualities of sound, which strike the listener with remarkable immediacy. She is undogmatic in her approach to composition, using whatever may be of service to the given piece, from familiar diatonic scales to unclassifiable sonorities produced by newly invented playing styles. All of these elements are present in Offertorium, a violin concerto composed in 1979-80 for Gidon Kremer. The use of Bach's "royal theme" from the Musical Offering, treated orchestrally in the manner of Webern (see example below), serves "to unite the two personalities in the history of music who have produced the greatest impression on me". The composition thus begins its journey in familiar territory, but its treatment is original and expressive. The work is continuous, cast in three sections marked largely by the way in which they treat the theme. In Gubaidulina's basic conception, "the theme would offer itself up as a sacrifice". It is heard, at first, almost complete - only its last note, D, has been removed (see music example).
The solo violin enters on the next-to-last pitch, echoing the horn, playing in a tremolo the preceding two notes (F and E, forming a semitone). The omission of the anticipated closing note D from the outset is significant; a full statement would have brought the music to a stop before it began. The lack of the final note opens the door to a new world. The soloist seizes it - repeating the E and F in a brooding way before taking the semitone as the basis for an expansive cantilena.
Hommage a T. S. Eliot is in seven movements, of which the first three introduce the performers gradually: strings only in the first movement, winds only in the second, and the unaccompanied voice in the third. Not until the extended fifth movement do all the performers take part at once. The work was composed in two versions simultaneously - with the original English text, and a Russian translation.
(from notes by Steven Ledbetter)