Album Review

Sofia Gubaidulina “The Canticle of the Sun/Hommage to Marina Tsvetayeva” [Chandos] (cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   A Library

Two 1990s compositions by Russian-Tatar composer Sofia Gubaidulina

The Canticle of the Sun (36 minutes)
This 1997 work is based on St. Frances of Assisi’s nature-praising texts and features a curious lineup of 1 solo cellist, 3 percussionists, and one each of SATB. Things get to a slow but not uninteresting start with chimes and upward glissandos on the cello’s C-string heralding new verses, along with a theme which sounds like the beginning of the Back To The Future song. Pot comes to a boil at track 8 with full sound from only 7 performers, after which the cellist becomes percussionist (must be fun to watch live), ‘playing? the bass drum and a flexatone(!). The finale (track 12) is a heavenly meditation featuring wavering cello, triadic chorus, and my favorite, the celeste. For full effect, this should be played in its entirety.

Hommage – Marina Tsvetayeva
This is a bleak a capella choral work based on the poetry of Marina Tsvetayeva, who ended her miserable Russian life (made all the worse by WWII and exposed adulteries) in 1941. The gravitas weighs heavy, aided by well-timed silences, sung sighs, and some striking staggered entrances by various members of the Danish National Choir. This also should be played in its entirety, but try the 5th movement alone if you must save time.

-Cujo, January 2005

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