========= from the cover ==========
Gubaidulina: In croce / Ten Preludes / Quaternion
Gubaidulina and the cello
Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931) is half-Tartar and half-Russian. Her music, too, is always at a border: between the West and the East, between rational logic and irrational mysticism. In the 1960s, together with the composers Edison Denisov and Alfred Schnittke, she inaugurated a new period in Soviet music, bravely developing principles of Western avant-garde techniques on Russian soil. In the 1970s she founded the improvisational group Astreja whose purpose was to perform improvisations on various instruments (including many oriental ones) throughout the world. The spirit of improvisation is indeed very important in her music, as is a constant search for new expressive and technical possibilities in both Western and Eastern instruments. One of her most recent compositions, In the Shadow under the Tree (1998), was written for koto (a Japanese string instrument), bass-koto, zheng (a Chinese plucked string instrument) and symphony orchestra.
Since the 1980s Gubaidulina has grown increasingly concerned with proportion and rhythmical profile in her compositions, using very different but always clear structural ideas such as the golden mean, the Fibonacci series and monograms as major formal elements. Like Scriabin's Prometheus, the Poem of Fire, some of her works include a special part for 'coloured light', calling for a 'colour organ' in addition to soloist, choir or orchestra: for example, Alleluia (1990) and the Fourth String Quartet (1993).
Gubaidulina never received official recognition in the former Soviet Union. Like Alfred Schnittke she had to earn her living by writing music for films, and produced more than twenty film scores. In 1990 she moved to Germany and since 1991 has lived in Appen, near Hamburg - all the while maintaining her Russian citizenship. During the last two decades, however, her music has achieved increasing international renown, her compositions being performed by leading orchestras, soloists and chamber groups in all parts of the world.
In croce, for cello and organ (1979) Originally written for cello and organ, this work also exists in a later version (1991) for cello and bayan (a Russian accordion) by Elsbeth Moser, a version approved by the composer. The work's title means 'On the cross' but refers also to the 'crossing' parts of the two instruments. The cello starts in the low register, gradually ascending, the organ in the high register, finishing with a very low cluster - in the original version the organ's engine should be turned off at the very end, creating the remarkable effect of a general physical disintegration of the sound. The cello part is microtonal at the beginning and perfectly diatonic at the end while the organ part starts in a clear A major and finishes with a kind of indistinct 'whispering'.
Ten Preludes, for solo cello (1974) The Ten Preludes originally bore the title 'Ten . Studies' as Gubaidulina had been commissioned to contribute pieces for a collection of pedagogical exercises for cello. She wanted to explore and demonstrate unusual ways of dealing with well-known, traditional techniques for the instrument. The work was first published, in Kiev, the Ukraine, under that original title. However, consideration of the highly artistic character of the pieces, which really are studies in expression rather than technique, led to the change of their collective title. Together, the Ten Preludes constitute a veritable encyclopaedia of Gubaidulina style of writing for a stringed instrument, combining scrupulous research into new expressive and colouristic means with a detailed representation of emotions.
Quaternion, for cello quartet (1996) Quaternion is one of Gubaidulina's most dramatic compositions, written for a quartet of solo cellos. The composer here introduces a new soundworld in which the instruments sometimes are used in highly unusual ways. Cellos 3 and 4 should be tuned a quarter-tone below cellos 1 and 2, achieving an effect similar to the 'shadow' contrast produced in String Quartet No. 4. One section of the piece is to be played with thimbles on the fingers of the right hand. Typically for Gubaidulina, various harmonics occur in a symbolic context. The main musical idea is a juxtaposition of 'existence' and 'spiritual essence', the former represented by stopped notes, the latter by harmonics produced at the same point on the string, but with no pressure, no 'gravitation'; in the words of Sofia Gubaidulina herself:
The string instrument's ability to produce notes of different pitch at the same position on the string can be experienced musically as a transition to another level of reality. And such an experience is nothing other than joy of transfiguration.
- Alexander Ivashkin (2001)
As a soloist and chamber musician Alexander Ivashkin has performed in more than thirty countries. He is a regular guest at many important music festivals in Europe, the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and has performed as soloist with leading orchestras all over the world. He has given solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall, London, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Philharmonia Hall in St Petersburg and Vredenburg in Utrecht among other venues. He is one of the three Russian cellists, the others being Mstislav Rostropovich and Natalia Gutman, for whom Alfred Schnittke composed his works for cello, and has recorded the complete works for that instrument by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Roslavets and Schnittke. A Professor of Music at the University of London, Alexander Ivashkin is also Artistic Director of the Adam International Cello Festival and Competition in New Zealand.
Malcolm Hicks studied organ in Birmingham with Dr Roy Massey, for many years organist at Hereford Cathedral, and passed the diploma examinations of the Royal College of Organists. He continued his training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied conducting, cello, piano and singing. Malcolm Hicks has enjoyed a long full-time professional career as a keyboard player and conductor and has performed in venues in London and around the world, as well as making many broadcasts and recordings.
Natalia Pavlutskaya lives in London where she teaches cello at Trinity College of Music and at The Purcell School. She performs in recitals and as a soloist with orchestras, and has a successful international recording career. A teacher of international stature, she is in constant demand worldwide to give master-classes.
Rachel Johnston, a student of Natalia Pavlutskaya's, is one of the best young cellists of her generation. She is a winner of the 1998 International Cello Competition in Liezen, Austria and the 1998 Chamber Music Competition in Canterbury, and won a special prize at the 2000 Royal Over-Seas League Annual Music Competition in London.
A native of New Zealand, Miranda Wilson, also a student of Natalia Pavlutskaya's, is the winner of many national scholarships and awards. She currently lives in London and performs extensively as a soloist and chamber musician.