Gubaidulina: The Canticle of the Sun; Music for Flute, Strings and Percussion

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COMPOSERS: Gubaidulina
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: The Canticle of the Sun; Music for Flute, Strings and Percussion
PERFORMER: Emmanuel Pahud (flute); London Voices, LSO/Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Ryusuke Numajiri
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57153 2
The cello is commandant in Gubaidulina’s Canticle of the Sun, scored for cello, percussion and choir. In this recording, Rostropovich – for whom it was written – carries the dramatic weight, from recurring big gestural leaps to intense high legato passages, with committed leadership; his questioning playing demands a response. This comes with heart-rending humility from London Voices, as is appropriate in fulfilling Gubaidulina’s wish to reflect St Francis of Assisi’s humble text. The Canticle is not so much a concerto-like conversation as a follow-my-leader mystical journey in glorification of the creator, the elements, life and eventually death. Ravishing gong blasts may punctuate moments of high fervour, but celesta and ethereal-sounding percussion are integral to build-ups and backdrops. A central section where Rostropovich bows with a snare drum stick and exchanges his instrument for a flexatone or bass drum keeps the ear absorbed, not indulged.

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In Music for Flute, Strings and Percussion the string orchestra is divided into two halves – one tuned a quarter-tone lower and representing ‘shadow’, the other ‘light’. But it feels more like a terrifying oscillation between devil and angel. The oscillator is flautist Emmanuel Pahud, heard yet again giving a wholly animated performance, aided by alert LSO players under Ryusuke Numajiri. Kate Sherriff