Iñaki Alberdi / Asier Polo / Euskadiko Orkestra Sinfonikoa

Gubaidulina: Seven Words; Kadenza

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Sofia Gubaidulina creates her own musical universe, which resists easy categorization, labeling, or description. It is highly evocative of moods, symbols, and feelings. Gubaidulina's unique heritage (she hails from Chistopol in the Tatar Republic and then studied in Moscow) imbues her compositions with a sense of having one foot outside the Western European tradition. The combination of instruments is unusual; the classical accordion is the highlight of the compositions, frequently accompanied by a lush, lyrical cello, and also by the Basque National Orchestra in Seven Words. Seven Words draws on biblical stories, though the music is not programmatic. "Father, forgive them" features a unison through a few minutes of the beginning, the same note played with different rhythms by different instruments that lead to a hymn-like section with what might loosely be called a melody. The cello solo in "Verily I say unto thee" is haunting, deep, and lovely, with a foreboding sense of doom. This is in contrast with the last movement of the piece, "Father into thy hands," which is swirling, frenetic, and cacophonous. Gubaidulina makes use of texture, repetition, and orchestral color to conjure up the eerie atmosphere. "In croce" features melodic riffs under the cello's dark strokes that sound rather like the lowing of an animal. Several minutes into the piece, there is a melody played in the high register of the cello, which is performed so smoothly at that register that it sounds like a violin. Cellist Asier Polo is to be commended for his musicianship. Kadenza, a solo piece for the accordion (played by Iñaki Alberdi), creates an almost organ-like sound, whereas in "Et exspecto," the accordion plays what sounds like a tango gone awry in the middle of the piece. Gubaidulina is able to elicit the most unexpected sounds from the instruments, playing with the listener's expectations. Though deceptively simple at times, this music cannot be easy to play, and the musicians as well as conductor José Ramón Encinar are courageous to undertake this project. The album may not have broad popular appeal, but it could be exciting for fans of Gubaidulina and/or experimental music.

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