Elsbeth Moser / Boris Pergamenschikow / Münchener Kammerorchester / Christoph Poppen SOFIA GUBAIDULINA

"Seven Words" addresses that most difficult of subjects, Christ's suffering and death on the Cross. Not many composers have felt equal to the challenge although Haydn's Seven Words of "Our Saviour on the Cross" is one of the enduring works to approach this theme.
Hermann Conen in the CD booklet: "Sofia Gubaidulina has accepted the challenge of attempting to capture the great mystery in sound. Although the seven movements are, at least initially, clearly separated by string passages, there is no parallelism of word and sound in the traditional sense. It is more a matter of the instruments 'uttering' what cannot be sung or said; they 'speak' with 'instrumental, metaphorical gestures' (Gubaidulina).The cross symbolism palpable throughout the 'Seven Words' begins on the instrumental level: the cello, coming from the art music of 'high culture', stands for what is 'lofty'; the bayan, a button accordion from the sphere of Russian folk music. Although the sound production is totally different (bowed strings, metal reeds vibrated by air), the two instruments reveal astonishingly similar sonorities, sometimes to the point of indistinguishability...The music of the string orchestra is devised as a contrast to the harsh chromaticism of the cello/bayan and remains clearly separated during the first two movements. The presto and pianissimo string passages soaring from a note played in unison open up a tonal sphere that rises and falls like the sweep of wings ... From the very first sound a ritualised musical meditation begins, its individual core elements unfolding almost imperceptibly at first and then growing inexorably towards one another."
Elsbeth Moser, who plays the bayan on this recording, is one of Gubaidulina's closest musical associates and dedicatee of several works (including the landmark "Silenzio") and understands the composer's intentions. Her performance of "De Profundis" (composed 1978) is astonishing. Writing of a recent concert, critic Richard Whitehouse noted that the bayan, "in the hands of Elsbeth Moser on the solo 'De Profundis', effortlessly combined the provocation of a new sound resource with the timelessness of a traditional instrument."
The "Ten Preludes" (1974, revised 1999) for cello began life as a set of teaching pieces, with each of the Preludes addressing a different technical consideration, but there is space in these fascinating pieces also for the interpreter to make his own mark. Gubaidulina: "Particularly the last prelude in the cycle gives performers an opportunity to make the work their own . There, improvisatory passages, which every player can interpret in a different way, are interposed in the composed score. I planned this deliberately, to illustrate how an instrumentalist's creative imagination alters musical content."
Boris Pergamenshikov gives his creative imagination free rein here. The Leningrad born cellist has been an important contributor to international concert activity since emigrating to the West in 1977. His varied soloist or chamber music experience has included work with Claudio Abbado, the Amadeus and Alban Berg Quartets, Gidon Kremer, Witold Lutoslawski, Yehudi Menuhin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Mstislav Rostropovich, Andras Schiff, and Sándor Végh.
Pergamenshikov first recorded for ECM in 1985, appearing on a recording from the Lockenhaus Festival where he played music of Shostakovich with Gidon Kremer, Thomas Zehetmair, and Nobuko Imai.

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  1. It's nice to hear the bayan, but the whole picture is way too much gubaidulinian... or at least more than untrained ears like mine can endure.

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