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COMPOSERS: Gubaidulina/Cage
WORKS: Ten Preludes for Solo Cello; One8
PERFORMER: Julius Berger (cello)
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.


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