Sofia Gubaidulina, long an exemplar of contemporary Russian music, has turned into something of an elder stateswoman, her rigorous but rich-in-symbolism style having influenced a host of other, mostly younger composers. This program of contemporary trios from the former Soviet Union opens with Gubaidulina's String Trio of 1988, a piece tightly wound together with three-in-one units that at once bespeak the composer's mystical Christianity and function as a highly abstract organizing principle. The piece is gripping right from the opening unisons and their dissolution, and it's a good introduction to Gubaidulina. But, whether the performers intended this or not, what's most interesting is how well the rest of the music seems to flow from Gubaidulina's language. The other composers, even if their languages are quite different from Gubaidulina's, all use a restricted set of material to develop an intense mode of expression. In the words of annotator Ivan Moody, this may be due to the "extreme, often fragile states of spirit" with which these composers had to deal Whatever you think of this idea (and it seems likely that there's a lot to it, and that it is this quality that has made Russian music so important on the world stage), the cumulative effect of the music is strong as it proceeds through the little-known Oleg Paiberdin's Organum A-nn-A and two works by Giya Kancheli. The former work is written in memory, not of someone named Anna, but of composer Sergei Berinsky. Especially interesting is Kancheli's Rag-gidon-time (the Gidon is Gidon Kremer), which atomizes ragtime rhythms and is one of the few compositions to look at African-American rhythms completely from the outside. Alexander Knaifel's E.F. and three visiting cards of the poet, which appears alone on the second CD, stands somewhat apart from the rest of the music. Like other works by Knaifel it is closely connected to a text without being a vocal work, and here Knaifel himself reads the text involved, a set of love poems written on the backs of visiting cards, prior to the performance of the incredibly sparse work. It's more eccentric than the works by the other three composers, but it has a similar intensity. The Goeyvaerts Trio worked closely with the composers on this set of of "string trios from the East" (not as common a descriptor as it once was), and their performances, in music that is both technically and emotionally difficult, are superb. This is a must-have item for any collection of Russian music; it ably represents that music's latest chapter.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Alexander Knaifel reads poems by F. Tyutchev|