Maerchenbild - Fairytale Poem
Hannover Radio Symphony Orchestra
Recording: 15 Nov. 91, live (1-3), 1-3 Sept 93 (4), 5-6 Nov 92, live (5)
========= from the cover ==========
Sofia Gubaidulina - Pro et contra, Concordanza, and Fairy Tale Poem
"One indeed would finally like to find the key to music making which entails experiencing not of the past but of the present. (I have always been troubled by the thought that we, in our traditional way of life, are missing something very essential.) And one would like to find the means for the overlapping of music making and intellectual practice. But we all persist in our drive for self-representation and in our concern for our own authorial status. We all think more of ourselves than of those for whom we compose."This statement by Sofia Gubaidulina in a letter of a good decade ago to her friend and fellow composer Viktor Suslin could serve as the credo for her entire compositional oeuvre. For Gubaidulina composing is religio, religion in the literal and original sense of the term: the restoration of connection or unity lost in the "staccato of life." Each composition is a new way to religio.
Sofia Gubaidulina was born in Chsistopol, Tatar Republic, in 1931 and studied in Kazan and Moscow. During the sixties and seventies she encountered repression more so than support within Soviet musical life, and today she is the most important living woman composer. Her works are distinguished by melodiousness even in the midst of the harshest clusters of dissonance. Balanced formal proportions, harmonious time relations, and a rhythmic organization of time form the basis of her music. This is Gubaidulina's fundament, the plane on which dissonance and consonance, tension and release of tension, conflict and resolution are realized; and perhaps this is why her music has the overall effect of harmoniousness, perhaps this is why, for all the complexity of her music, she still enjoys such great popularity. Pro et contra, a commissioned work composed by Gubaidulina for the Louisville Orchestra in 1989, forms a two-part cycle together with the oratorio Alleluia, a work completed in the following year. When the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich suggested the possibility of producing a ballet based on the two works, Gubaidulina agreed and composed the oratorio Lauda for the dance version. The trilogy was premiered in Genoa in 1991 under the title of Prayer for the Age of Aquarius. The idea behind the three-movement orchestral work Pro et contra is that of the old Russian Orthodox alleluia chant. Gubaidulina does not reproduce the chant but only hints at it. The title Pro et contra is to be understood drama-turgically: it stands for forces working "for and against" the chant. The chant itself is a symbol of confidence and faith and is not formulated as continuation and. answer until Alleluia. In the first movement the chant, as a rudiment and pro, forms a framework with the strict diatonicism hovering around one tone and the bell imitations. Minor seconds, chromaticism, and noisy passages point to the contra, but even here the pro idea still shines through. The second movement concretizes this battle of for and against through the swift alternation and simultaneous occurrence of chant psalmody and parts of hectic tension. Both elements are reinforced amid their mutual influence, but only the chant proceeds toward parts of increasing closure. The conflict between pro and contra becomes even more intense in the third movement. The chant idea intensifies to a dance rhythm; it is heard first in the violins and then in the horns and trombones. After a grand climax it ends up being transformed into a simple march rhythm in the percussion section and then returns from outside, as if renewed and purified. The trumpet announces it behind the scenes, and the orchestra picks up on the chant idea as an echo and resonance together with the new intonation taking shape in Alleluia.
Concordanza, a composition for chamber ensemble, was composed in 1971 and premiered in Prague in the same year. As always in Sofia Gubaidulina's oeuvre, the title is not a simple programmatic indicator but points to the formal and dramaturgical idea of the work. Concordanza means "agreement," "concord, "or" harmony, "and here concord or concordance is illustrated on the level of articulation types: in the legato, in the flow of the voices without punctuation by rests, and, as a quiet climax in the center of the composition, in the dialogue between the double bass and the flageolet melody of the violin. The opposite, discordanza, is exhibited in the staccato of the winds, pizzicato of the strings, and in "muddled passages" such as the double bass solo after the first legato section. Discord or discordance also manifests itself in march rhythms, in trills and tremolos, and in the hissing articulated by the musicians. The two opposites interpenetrate and are transformed amid their mutual influence. When the chromatic runs return at the end, they are heard first as tremolos in the strings and as staccato in the basses. It is not until the very conclusion that there is reattainment to the legato in the winds.
Sofia Gubaidulina composed Fairy Tale Poem in 1971 for a radio broadcast featuring The Little Chalk, a Czech fairy tale. She reports that she said that she would be happy to issue the music as a separate orchestral work because it seemed to her to be a parable about an artist's destiny. She summarizes the content of the fairy tale as follows: "The main character is a small piece of chalk used for writing on school chalkboards. The chalk dreams that someday it will draw wonderful castles, beautiful gardens with pavilions, and the sea. But, day in, day out, it is forced to write boring words, numbers, and geometric figures on the board. The children grow with each day, but the chalk becomes smaller and smaller. The chalk gradually becomes despondent and loses all hope of ever having a chance to draw the sun and the sea. Soon it will be so small that it will no longer be used in the school classroom and will end up being thrown away. Then the chalk once again finds itself in total darkness and thinks that it has died. What it thought was the darkness of death is actually the inside of a boy's trousers pocket. The boy pulls the chalk out of his pocket and in the light of day begins to design castles, gardens with pavilions, and the sea with the sun on the asphalt. The chalk is so happy that it does not notice how it meets its end while drawing this beautiful world."
- Dorothea Redepenning (translated by Susan Marie Praeder)