SOFIA GUBAIDULINA (b.1931): St. John Passion.

Catalogue Number: 03J109

Label: Hännsler Classic

Reference: CD 98.289

Format: CD

Price: $37.98

Description: These two hour-long oratorios form one larger work, encompassing the Easter story; the Passion in the first work, the Resurrection in the second. The texts are taken from the Gospel of St John and the book of Revelation; in this, musically as well as textually revised version of the work, premiered last year, they are sung in German. The oratorio has been hailed as a summit of Gubaidulina's output - the composer herself has suggested as much - and may actually be such. Ambitious in scope but avoiding any sense of avant-garde theatrical excesses, the work sounds like a deeply felt, utterly sincere expression of the composer's faith - so long capable of only oblique expression in the former Soviet Union - now communicated through her most direct emotional and spiritual music to date. In the Passion oratorio the contrast between the treatment of the soloists is a striking feature; the bass intones the Gospel text in the manner of the chanting of psalms; the baritone sings the passages from Revelation in more dramatically expressive, operatic style. The choral contribution is largely tonal in effect, chordal and based on conventional harmony; such modernistic effects as there are - wide-ranging glissandi and some extended playing techniques - are mostly confined to the orchestra, and are used sparingly. Crowd scenes are presented with theatrical realism, vocally 'acted' en masse, not sung. Frequently employed are the subtle, whispering sounds of untuned percussion, suggesting distant bells; in fact the clangor of bells - literal and implied - is a constant presence, as though suggesting the liturgical resonances down through the ages of the story so vividly enacted in the foreground. In several extended dramatic passages - such as the baritone's 'opening of the seven seals' which precedes the betrayal of Christ - the influence of late Busoni is unmistakable. The Easter oratorio is quite different in texture and timbre, though the sound of bells remains pervasive from the very start. Registers are frequently highest, textures more open, though the narrative psalmic sprechstimme of the bass remains, and the quasi-operatic presentation of the drama and the interpolated visionary tableaux is tremendously effective. 2 CDs. German-English texts. Julia Sukmanova (soprano), Corby Welch (tenor), Bernd Valentin (baritone), Nicholas Isherwood (bass), Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Chamber Choir of the Trossingen MusikHochschule, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra; Helmuth Rilling.


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