WORKS: Sieben Worte; Ten Preludes; De profundis
PERFORMER: Elsbeth Moser (bayan), Boris Pergamenschikow (cello); Munich CO/Christoph Poppen
CATALOGUE NO: 461 897-2
These three stunning works remain essential listening for anyone seeking to understand the ardent, mystical, unconventional spirit of Sofia Gubaidulina. Though not conceived as such they make a satisfying triptych: the expressive qualities of the solo pieces for cello and for bayan come together in Seven Words, which pits these instruments against each other and against a plangently ‘white-note’ string orchestra whose role is akin to that of a church choir, chanting their religious songs in the intervals of mortal combat. Something of this choric role is also found in De profundis, a solo composition of astonishing intensity for the bayan – a native Russian version of the accordion, which Gubaidulina writes for with such colour and variety it might be a gigantic pipe-organ. As for the Ten Preludes, these brilliant, athematic, ‘experimental’ studies in various techniques of cello-playing begin to sound like one of the instrument’s great solo cycles, at times so mysteriously lyrical one sorrows that Pablo Casals did not live long enough to make their acquaintance.
These are not premiere recordings, and the works have been peerlessly interpreted on record by their original dedicatees, the cellist Vladimir Tonkha and the bayan-player Friedrich Lips. But Moser and Pergamenschikow have not only the technique but also the dedication and insight that this burning music requires, and ECM’s recording is superb. Calum MacDonald