Gubaidulina: In croce; Ten Preludes for solo cello; Quaternion

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COMPOSERS: Gubaidulina
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: In croce; Ten Preludes for solo cello; Quaternion
PERFORMER: Alexander Ivashkin, Natalia Pavlutskaya, Rachel Johnston, Miranda Wilson (cello), Malcolm Hicks (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9958
Alexander Ivashkin’s bold, confident cello-playing is the thread running through these works; he partners the organist Malcolm Hicks in the 1979 In croce, plays the Ten Preludes for the solo instrument from 1979, and leads a quartet of cellos in the remarkable Quaternion. Though many of Sofia Gubaidulina’s works have a religious dimension, In croce does not, despite its title; ‘On the cross’ refers to the way in which the two instruments exchange roles during the work, the cello beginning with microtones in the lowest register and gradually rising to a high diatonic end, while the organ starts off high in a pure A major and descends to the depths to a cluster that gradually collapses when the instrument’s blower is turned off.

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Though the Ten Preludes stretch the player’s capabilities to the maximum, they remain more or less within the conventional resources of the instrument. But Quaternion creates a whole new, ethereal, sound-world in which the cellos are tuned in pairs a quarter-tone apart, the players wear thimbles on their fingers in one section, and the music is persistently coloured by harmonics. It is a haunting, mysterious and deeply personal work, typical of Gubaidulina at her best. Andrew Clements