Friday, 4 December 2015

Gubaidulina: Meditation on the Bach Chorale “Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit” (1993)

I'm not saying the Scottish Ensemble are sexist or anything, but Three Parts Bach does tuck away the female composer's contribution between the two big boys of relaxing Christmas classical composition. I suppose Arvo and JS are the star names, but Gubaidulina deserves a bit more love. 

Oh, she is responding to a Bach choral (“Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit”). So I suppose the name isn't unfair. Plus Three Parts Bach is a pretty cool tag.

Anyway, Gubaidulina is a rare remnant of the Soviet system: she is still at large, but won a Stalin fellowship, but got bollocked by the USSR for 'inappropriate tunings'. If getting in trouble from a totalitarian state for being experimental isn't cool enough (it's one thing if they don't like your politics, but winding them up because of the notes you use is magic), then the support of Shostakovitch really raises the bar.

Gubaidulina's compositions nod towards the god-awful racket that passes for serialism, but her exploration of sound is more mischievous than pompous. Her Meditation on the Bach Chorale sounds like she has cracked open JS' harpsichord and let all the other notes burst out. Then there's the bass/harpsichord duel in the middle, when the other strings try to get in on the action. Sweet.

Between Bach and Part, Gubaidulina is a little more abrasive, roughing up the consciousness to allow the calmer voice of Arvo (and Bach's polite mysticism) to attach to the mind.

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