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Sofia Gubaidulina: The Canticle of The Sun

Album Summary

>Gubaidulina, Sofia : The Lyre of Orpheus, for violin, percussion & string orchestra
>Gubaidulina, Sofia : Canticle of the Sun (Sonnengesang), for cello, 2 percussionists & chorus
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Sofia Gubaidulina's 80th birthday in October 2011 generated much press coverage around the world, appropriately stressing the uniqueness and the variety of her compositional approaches. Both are in evidence on this album of recordings from the Lockenhaus Festival in Austria. Gidon Kremer is the soloist and Kremerata Baltica the ensemble on the world premiere recording of The Lyre of Orpheus, dedicated to the memory of Gubaidulina's daughter, while cellist Nicolas Altstaedt takes the solo role in The Canticle of the Sun, which the composer wrote in tribute to Mstislav Rostropovich on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1997.

Gidon Kremer has long been a committed advocate of Gubaidulina's work, and the composer has praised the way the violinist seems to unleash music from the soul. In The Lyre of Orpheus, a work of austere beauty and raw lyricism, violin, string orchestra and percussion intermingle in new ways. At a subterranean level, the piece is also an exploration into acoustic phenomena and the physics of sound, with pulsating difference tones part of its underlying structures. It was recorded in 2006, a month after Kremer gave the first performance.

The Canticle of the Sun, recorded in 2010, revisits the celebrated piece composed for Mstislav Rostropovich for his 70th birthday. Rostropovich's famously sunny disposition was an inspiration, by association prompting Gubaidulina to set St Francis of Assissi's "Canticle of the Sun" for choir. In his ECM recording debut, the young German cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, a current BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, takes on the highly expressive lead role. A further, timely, Lockenhaus connection here: in 2012 Altsteadt takes over from Kremer as the new director of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival.

"This album is testament to the sensitive individualism of Sofia Gubaidulina... Gubaidulina's characteristic use of unusual percussion...reaches further extremes in her setting of St Francis's "Canticle of the Sun" when cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, having de-tuned his instrument to its lowest possible note, eventually abandons it to bow first a drum, then a flexatone device. Strange, but beautiful." -The Independent

"[The Lyre of Orpheus] is a powerful single movement for solo violin, string orchestra and percussion. The violinist Gidon Kremer and his ensemble give it with expressive intensity... [The Canticle of the Sun] is a restrained but joyous concerto...It is above all poetic, with starbursts of sound." -The Sunday Times

Gramophone Magazine
These are attractive pieces, in the obvious sense of beguiling the ear but also for their capacity to hold attention and draw the listener into her inventive world...These are extraordinary works from an extraordinary and very compelling musical personality.

BBC Music Magazine, June 2012
Despite...distinguished competition, Nicolas Altstaedt is fairly mesmerising in this new version, and the Riga Chamber Choir is extremely clear in its diction and alive to the work's mercurial changes of textures and mood...Kremer's performance [of The Lyre] seems ideal.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Lockenhaus Festival, Lockenhaus, Austria.


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Works Details

>Gubaidulina, Sofia : The Lyre of Orpheus, for violin, percussion & string orchestra
  • Performers: Gidon Kremer (Violin); Marta Sudraba (Cello)
  • Ensemble: Kremerata Baltica
  • Running Time: 23 min. 41 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 2006

>Gubaidulina, Sofia : Canticle of the Sun (Sonnengesang), for cello, 2 percussionists & chorus
  • Performers: Nicolas Altstaedt (Cello); Rostislav Krimer; Andrei Pushkarev (Percussion); Rihards Zalupe (Percussion)
  • Conductor: Máris Sirmais
  • Running Time: 10 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1997