More music from Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina

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Tonight at the Harris Theater, in the latest concert in the terrific MusicNow series, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will give the U.S. premiere of Labyrinth (2011) by the masterful Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina. I haven't been able to learn much about the work, written for 12 cellos and commissioned by the Lucerne Festival—as part of a celebration of the composer's 80th birthday—but I expect it to be as gripping, dramatic, and severe as much of Gubaidulina's prolific output.

Earlier this year ECM Records released the excellent Canticle of the Sun, which included her wonderful 2006 piece The Lyre of Orpheus performed by violinist Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica and a version of her 1997/98 title piece, a dedication to the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich that set the titular sacred Saint Francis of Assisi text, where the singing by the Riga Chamber Choir "Kamer…" is decidedly austere, to a dark, turbulent cello-focused score.

Gubaidulina is famous not only for using sacred and mystical themes, but drawing upon alternative tunings and complex numbers series, such as the Fibonacci sequence, in her writing. The liner notes to the recent CD are enough to make my brain wilt: her explanation of The Lyre of Orpheus details the use of intervals and difference tones in the work, particularly the presence of subtonal pulsations inaudible to the human ear. OK. Luckily, the average jamoke doesn’t need to worry about that, because the music is stunning, filled with liquid shifts in mood, density, and timbre. You can listen to it over at this listening station set up by ECM.


Today’s playlist:

Henry Flynt, Graduation and Other New Country and Blues Music (Ampersand)
Marcus Belgrave, Gemini (Universal Sound)
Duane Jarvis, Certified Miracle (Slewfoot)
Soko Steidle, Maximale Langeweile (Jazzwerkstatt)
Charles Ives, Ives Plays Ives: the Complete Recordings of Charles Ives at the Piano (1933-1943) (New World)

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