Saturday, February 28, 2009
Sofia Gubaidulina in The Evening
With a couple of great press tickets in hand, I went to the second week of the "Composer Residency" of Sofia Gubaidulina with the Opera Tattler, above, in tow (click here). It was the "Friday 6.5" performance which starts at 6:30 PM with a slightly pared down program so people can presumably go out for a lovely dinner after the concert.
The first half of the concert was devoted to Gubaidulina's violin concerto, "In tempus praesens," written in 2007 for the German superstar Anne-Sophie Mutter who was to perform it that evening.
Michael Tilson Thomas, the Symphony's Music Director, can be much too verbose when he's introducing music to an audience through a microphone, but this evening his remarks were short and graceful, telling us how much he and the orchestra loved this piece of music. He also sat down at the amplified harpsichord which was part of the huge orchestra and gave us a couple of simple themes and notes that anchored the entire 30-minute piece.
The performance by both Mutter and the orchestra was sensationally good. The critic Janos Gereben (click here) had loaned me a recording of the work which turned out to be invaluable because it's so dense.
Gubaidulina's music sounds a bit like that point where Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich's output of the 1960s intersects, and what that fusion might have created forty years down the road. I heard elements of both Britten's "War Requiem" and Shostakovich's late string quartets throughout, though with a voice that is all her own. By the way, Britten and Shostakovich were huge fans of each other, which is saying something, since Britten was otherwise a musical snob about most of his contemporaries. Gubaidulina (above) also wrote a cello concerto for Britten and Shostakovich's favorite instrumentalist, Mstislav Rostropovich, which feels perfectly apt.
Listening to the Mutter/Gergiev recording helped with my enjoyment of the piece, but the music really needs to be heard live because its soft-to-loud dynamic contrasts are some of the most gorgeous and extreme I've ever heard, and can't really be reproduced on disc.