Recording of the Week: Gubaidulina Offertorium

gubaidulina - offertorium

Born in Chistopol in the Tartar Republic of the Soviet Union in 1931 Sofia Gubaidulina is a composer now living in Germany. She has a large reputation among a relatively small number of lovers of contemporary music. Her music has been championed by Gidon Kremer who is the soloist on this recording of her violin concerto Offertorium.  Originally released in 1989 it was reissued in 2002 as part of DG’s Echo 20/21 series of contemporary music. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Charles Dutoit.

The remainder of the disc contains the composer’s Hommage à T.S. Eliot, a seven part piece for soprano (Christine Whittlesey) and octet. The Hommage contains a few lines from three of Eliot’s Four Quartets. It’s connection to Eliot’s long poems is slender.

The concerto is a deconstruction of the royal theme from JS Bach’s A Musical Offering. The technique is that of Webern. If you like the 2nd Viennese School you’ll love the Offertorium. My younger musician friends are great admirers of Gubaidulina. Here’s the first three minutes of the piece (Offertorium ) with the Bach theme and the start of its dissection. If your tastes are less adventuresome I’ll put up a newer composition next week that is a little easier for tired ears.

There’s little melody and very little rhythmic drive in the concerto. There’s a lot of brilliant orchestration, complicated harmonies, and unusual timbres to the composition. It’s obviously going to attract a specialized audience.

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