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.
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