Gubaidulina/Cage

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COMPOSERS: Gubaidulina/Cage
LABELS: Wergo
WORKS: Ten Preludes for Solo Cello; One8
PERFORMER: Julius Berger (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: WER 6288-2 DDD
Gubaidulina and Cage might seem an unexpected pairing, yet they had a shared interest in time and silence, which is here placed under the microscope. Gubaidulina herself said that the most important goal of a work of art is ‘the transformation of time’, and in her music such transformations would seem to occur in a conservative, religious context, in which attempts are made to reach ‘the time of the soul’s lingering in the spiritual’. Yet for Cage, by contrast a wholly radical, joyously contriving genius, the goal was the same: music, he wrote, should ‘sober and quiet the mind thus making it susceptible to divine influences.’ There are many time-worlds explored in Gubaidulina’s miniatures, but it is only in the massive, 43-minute expanse – much of it silent – of One8 that we escape both the cello itself, and any sense of sequential progression.

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Julius Berger gives fine performances of Gubaidulina’s Preludes. His cello sound is sinewy, sometimes mottled, but he characterises each of the different movements persuasively, from the jaunty simplicity of No. 2 to his apparently effortless ‘Arco-pizzicato’, a virtuoso twister. Cage’s One8 can be realised in a variety of ways, and Berger chooses the option with a normal rather than curved bow, avoiding multi-stopped strings. Only for those with plenty of time to meditate. Helen Wallace