Now in her mid-70s, Sofia Gubaidulina was born of Russian and Tatar parents who were both Orthodox and Muslim. The cultural mix combines, however, to form a consistent impression of darkness, intensity and anguish, descending, at times, into lugubriousness.
The BBC's January Composer Weekends too often fail to provide a framework to contextualise the output of the composer. In one such as Gubaidulina, back-to-back programming, unleavened by the music of others, bestows few favours.
Nadeyka Triptych, receiving its premiere in complete form, is a massive work. Beginning with the newest, and arguably the most successful, section, "The Lyre of Orpheus" is a violin concerto for string chamber orchestra. Gidon Kremer, the composer's champion since the Eighties, was the soloist, weaving his expressive way with his young ensemble Kremerata Baltica. "The Deceitful Face of Hope and Despair" is a flute concerto for full orchestra. "Atmospheres" of despair and hope drive the piece - low pitches for despair, high for hope. Sharon Bezaly produced wondrous sounds on three flutes, but marred the performance with her all too obvious physical tics.
"A Feast during the Plague" is for symphony orchestra alone. Seven horns begin at full tilt, but the end has a sickening electronic "pop" beat. Ironic or just plain awful? Fragments of contrasting pitches, techniques, dynamics and timbre are strung together. The overall structure is weak: activity is concentrated largely on the moment. Perhaps greater cohesion and passion might come from Russian performers, but Martin Brabbins and the BBC SO failed to convince.
With the indisposition of Gergiev, that the LSO concert took place at all was something of a miracle. The true heroes were the orchestra, who under Michail Jurowski and their own young bass player, Michael Francis, determined that the show should go on - and do so magnificently. Leonidas Kavakos was soloist in Offertorium, a massive violin concerto, but couldn't approach the insight of Kremer. Pro et contra proved more cohesive, with moments of remarkable colourings. It held the not-immodest audience spellbound.Reuse content