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Sofia Gubaidulina

From Wind Repertory Project
Sofia Gubaidulina

Biography

Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina (b. 24 October 24 1931, Chistopol, Soviet Union) is a Russian composer now residing in Germany.

Gubaidulina was born to an ethnically mixed family of a Volga Tatar father and an ethnic Russian mother. She studied composition and piano at the Kazan Conservatory, graduating in 1954. In Moscow she undertook further studies at the Conservatory with Nikolay Peyko until 1959, and then with Shebalin until 1963. She was awarded with a Stalin fellowship.

Her music was deemed "irresponsible" during her studies in Soviet Russia, due to its exploration of alternative tunings. She was supported, however, by Dmitri Shostakovich, who in evaluating her final examination encouraged her to continue down her "mistaken path". However, she was allowed to express her modernism in various scores she composed for documentary films, including the 1968 production On Submarine Scooters, a 70-mm film shot in the unique Kinopanorama widescreen format. She also composed the score to the well-known Russian animated picture Adventures of Mowgli (a rendition of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book).

In the mid-1970s Gubaidulina founded Astreja, a folk-instrument improvisation group with fellow composers Viktor Suslin and Vyacheslav Artyomov. In 1979, she was blacklisted as one of the "Khrennikov's Seven" at the Sixth Congress of the Union of Soviet Composers for unapproved participation in some festivals of Soviet music in the West.

Gubaidulina became better known abroad during the early 1980s through Gidon Kremer's championing of her violin concerto Offertorium. She later composed an homage to T. S. Eliot, using the text from the poet's Four Quartets. In 2000, Gubaidulina, along with Tan Dun, Osvaldo Golijov, and Wolfgang Rihm, was commissioned by the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart to write a piece for the Passion 2000 project in commemoration of Johann Sebastian Bach. Her contribution was the Johannes-Passion. In 2002 she followed this by the Johannes-Ostern ("Easter according to John"), commissioned by Hannover Rundfunk. The two works together form a "diptych" on the death and resurrection of Christ, her largest work to date. Invited by Walter Fink, she was the 13th composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2003, the first female composer of the series. Her work The Light at the End preceded Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in the 2005 proms. In 2007 her second violin concerto In Tempus Praesens was performed at the Lucerne Festival by Anne-Sophie Mutter. Its creation has been depicted in Jan Schmidt-Garre's film Sophia - Biography of a Violin Concerto.

For Gubaidulina, music was an escape from the socio-political atmosphere of Soviet Russia. For this reason, she associated music with human transcendence and mystical spiritualism, which manifests itself as a longing inside the soul of humanity to locate its true being, a longing she continually tries to capture in her works. These abstract religious and mystical associations are concretized in Gubaidulina's compositions in various ways. Gubaidulina is a convinced Russian-Orthodox believer. The influence of electronic music and improvisational techniques is exemplified in her unusual combination of contrasting elements, novel instrumentation, and the use of traditional Russian folk instruments in her solo and chamber works, such as De profundis for bayan, Et expecto Sonata for bayan, and In croce for cello and organ or bayan. The koto, a traditional Japanese instrument, is featured in her work In the Shadow of the Tree, in which one solo player performs three different instruments — Koto, Bass Koto, and Chang. The Canticle of the Sun is a cello concerto/choral hybrid, dedicated to Rostropovich. The use of the lowest possible registers on the cello opens new possibilities for the instrument while the limited use of chorus also adds a mystical ambience to the work.

Another influence of improvisation techniques can be found in her fascination with percussion instruments. She associates the indeterminate nature of percussive timbres with the mystical longing and the potential freedom of human transcendence. She was also preoccupied by experimentation with non-traditional methods of sound production, and as already mentioned, with unusual combinations of instruments, i.e., Concerto for Bassoon and Low Strings (1975).

A profoundly spiritual person, Gubaidulina defines "re-ligio" as re-legato or as restoration of the connection between oneself and the Absolute. She finds this re-connection through the artistic process and has developed a number of musical symbols to express her ideals. She does it through narrower means of intervallic and rhythmic relationships within the primary material of her works, by seeking to discover the depth and mysticism of the sound, as well as on a larger scale, through carefully thought architecture of musical form.

Since 1992, Gubaidulina has lived in Hamburg, Germany. She is a member of the musical academies in Frankfurt, Hamburg and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.


Works for Winds


References