WORKS: Offertorium; Freue dich
PERFORMER: Oleh Krysa (violin), Torleif Thedeen (cello)Royal Stockholm PO/James DePriest
CATALOGUE NO: CD 566 DDD
Sofia Gubaidulina, born in 1931 in the Tatar Republic, belongs to the same generation of Russian composers as Alfred Schnittke, with whom she shares both an experimental approach to form and a concern with musical symbolism and spirituality. Her 1980 Offertorium, a concerto for violin and orchestra, is based on the ‘royal theme’ from Bach’s Musical Offering, which it first deconstructs and later reassembles (in reverse), a process that Gubaidulina compares to sacrifice, transformation and rebirth. It’s a highly dramatic piece, the violin soaring over scurrying woodwind, menacing percussion rumbles and whorls of declamatory brass, while the final movement is a sombre, moving chorale.
The 1988 Freue dich (Rejoice) is a sonata for violin and cello that, says the composer, depicts ‘the transition to another reality’, the latter represented by harmonics, their eerie, shining tones certainly sounding otherworldly. The result is a stark, strange lyricism that at times recalls Shostakovich, notably in the last movement’s prancing violin figure. Krysa and Thede’en play well together and the former is also impressive in Offertorium, though my preference is for the Gidon Kremer/Boston Symphony Orchestra version on DG, which is a more fluent and subtle performance. Graham Lock