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Gubaidulina: Offertorium; Hommage à T.S. Eliot Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered

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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, August 13, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This entry in DG's Echo 20/21 series of contemporary music reissues is outstanding for its musical quality, engineering, and remarkable performances. Offertorium is aptly subtitled "Violin Concerto" to reflect the role of the solo violin, here played with brilliance and understanding by Gidon Kremer, for whom it was written. It's in three continuous sections, each headed by a fascinating Webernesque deconstruction of the theme from Bach's Musical Offering. The extensive violin part is technically demanding, and the vigorous orchestral interjections range from the hauntingly wispy to the aggressively colorful. "The Homage à T.S. Eliot for Octet and Soprano" can be described as "mystical with backbone," perfectly complementing the texts, drawn from Eliot's Four Quartets. The music itself is haunting, rhythmically alive, and forward-moving. Its 33 minutes fly past, thanks to the Kremer-led all-star octet, Gubaidulina's inventive scoring, and the tension-filled vocal lines. Soprano Christine Whittlesey, a noted performer of modern vocal music, who sings in three of the work's seven movements, offers outstanding vocalism and interpretative intensity. --Dan Davis

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Offertorium, concerto for violin & orchestra (3 versions)
  2. Hommage à T. S. Eliot, for soprano & octet: 6th movement
  3. Hommage à T. S. Eliot, for soprano & octet: 7th movement: Sin is behovely, but...


Product Details

  • Performer: Gidon Kremer
  • Orchestra: Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Charles Dutoit
  • Composer: Sofia Gubaidulina
  • Audio CD (August 13, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000066I9E
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,793 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a stunning pair of recordings, originally released by DG in 1989, and reissued as part of the label's 20/21 Echo series. Gidon Kremer, the violin virtuoso, is featured on both OFFERTORIUM, a violin concerto, and HOMMAGE a T.S. ELLIOT, where he is joined by soprano voice and other instruments in featured roles. OFFERTORIUM, composed in 1979-80, strikes me as similar in tone, though not derivative of, Schnittke's incredible CONCERTO GROSSO NO. 1, also featuring Kremer on violin.

These "late Soviet" works share a stark contrast between dark and light, and the protagonist's voice is set against powerful forces -- in OFFERTORIUM there are sinister horns, also reminiscent of Shostakovich. The piece is marked at about the half-way point, and then ends, with conventionally beautiful lyrical passages that come as welcome resolution of the tense preceding drama. Dutoit and the Boston Symphony are superb. Both pieces are characterized by complex textures, and internal development that is endlessly fascinating.

HOMMAGE a T.S. ELLIOT is a chamber work in 8 movements which alternates between strings, horns and vocals in various combinations. I've been listening to Boulez's new recording of PLI SELON PLI recently, as well as Schoenberg's PIERROT LUNAIRE and ERWARTUNG, and by comparison, Gubaidulina's writing for soprano voice is outstanding. Both of these works by Sofia Gubaidulina are clearly among the very best of the 20th century!
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OFFERTORIUM is the first disc of Sofia Gubaidulina's work in Deutsche Grammaphon's "Echo 20/21" series of reissues. Gubaidulina, now recognised as one of the great living composers, is known for her deep spirituality and dedication to her own path away from trends, and this disc highlights this profundity and uniqueness well.

Gubaidulina's "Offertorium" is an exploration of the Royal Theme from Bach's "Musical Offering", using Klangfarbemelodie as Webern did in his orchestration. The theme is played nearly complete, is deconstructed note by note, hangs auspiciously absent, and then is mesmerizingly reconstructed as a Russian Orthodox hymn. The violin is at the core of this work, as it is a concerto dedicated to Gidon Kremer, but there are also very prominent contributions from the horns and drums. I find that this piece is an excellent introduction Gubaidulina's oeuve because it highlights the composer's tendency to meditative concentration broken by the rarest of powerful and shaking movements. However, while the work here is performed by its dedicatee, the sound quality is poor and the percussion oddly performed, so I would recommend the recording on BIS with Oleh Krysa over this.
The "Hommage a T.S. Eliot" is an exciting piece, here performed by a small ensemble selected by Gidon Kremer. Gubaidulina wrote the homage after reading the Eliot's "Four Quartets", often considered the poet's masterpiece and one of the finest works of spiritual poetry of the 20th century.

The homage consists of seven parts. The beginning two part are instrumental only. The first is with strings, a slow and tranquil exploration of sound very characteristic of Gubaidulina's "String Trio". The second is for horns, already much more energetic.
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Sofia Gubaidulina was in her fifties when glasnost lifted the Soviet ban on individual originality. She was only allowed to publish a few works, mostly film music, before 1985, and was reprimanded for her failure to conform. Shostakovich, who recognised her talent, sent her a note advising her to continue not to conform. These two works were written shortly after Gubaidulina's first visit to the West, where some West Germans had been espousing her work. Offertorium is a violin concerto like no other: it is a one-movement work of tremendous range: a set of variations which begin with Bach, steadily diminish, then grow again, using harmonies by her other formative composer, Webern, as a spiritual experience. Hommage to T S Eliot was written shortly after she had been overwhelmed by Eliot's Four Quartets, which she saw as an experience of past, present, future and beyond time. This is indeed a work in 'beyond time', commissioned in Cologne on the advice of Gidon Kremer, an admirer, for the same instrumentation as Schubert's octet, to which Gubaidulina adds a voice declaiming passages from the Eliot poems. For me it is indeed out of this world, a work both profound and moving. It knocks Boulez and Stockhausen into a cocked hat, by showing how deeply impressive atonal music can be, without recourse to circus tricks. These are outstanding performances of two of her most impressive works, fired by freedom.
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Sofia Gubaidulina is one of the most renown composers of our day. Both works on this album, each over 30 minutes in duration, are sensational. Gidon Kremer, star violinist, is featured on the magnificent violin concerto, Offertorium. Christine Whittlesey delivers a spine-tingling performance of the Four Quartets on Hommage à T. S. Eliot. These works are profoundly intense and full of drama.
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Time and again I've heard people praising Sofia Gubaidulina and her "Offertorium" as one of the most important works of the 20th century. Obviously, I must have missed something, because this work is one of the most boring pieces of music I've ever heard.

Apparently, it's based on the royal theme of Bach's Musical Offering (a la Webern), which the composer then later proceeds to "deconstruct" in some kind of sacrificial musical rite (Offering.) One by one the notes end up devoured -before being reconstructed - and in the end, what's left? Nothing, but glamorous musical effects coupled with pseudo-epiphanic 'holy' instants.

Moreover, the composer considered herself worthy enough to write music for some of the most beautiful poems ever written, T.S. Elliott's "The Four Quartets". The result obviously cannot live up to the exquisite beauty and deep spiritual feeling of the poems and in the end, both the music and the poetry lose.

This music is caught up in the brain, very cerebral and therefore very boring. It has not immersed itself in the mystical religious depths it supposedly wishes to convey and the result is superficial and disappointing.

It's good to listen to this CD only to see for yourself the degree of "degeneracy" and the values that our musical culture worships.
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