Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Sofia Gubaidulina: Sieben Worte for cello, bayan and strings – Jean-Guihen Queyras, Geir Draugsvoll, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Per Kristian Skalstad (HD 1080p)

Under the baton of the Norwegian conductor Per Kristian Skalstad, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra with the French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the Norwegian Geir Draugsvoll – one of the most important musicians on his instrument, the bayan –, perform Sofia Gubaidulina's Sieben Worte (The Seven Last Words) for cello, bayan and strings. Recorded at Sentralen, Oslo, on September 13, 2016.

Drawing upon her own faith and upon musical examples provided in past centuries by Heinrich Schütz and Franz Josef Haydn, Gubaydulina composed her Sem' slov na kreste (The Seven Words on the Cross) in 1982. Unlike the two earlier works, Gubaydulina's is entirely instrumental (although she does borrow one thematic idea from Schütz's work). The first performance of the work came in that same year of 1982, with cellist Vladimir Tonkha and bayan soloist Friedrich Lips (to whom the work is dedicated), along with the Ricercar Chamber Orchestra conducted by Y. Nikolayevsky.

In order to classify and characterize the various musical devices used in her works, Gubaydulina has created what has been dubbed a "parameter of expression". In the present work, some of the string orchestra's parts are marked "consonant expression" (i.e., played legato, with consistent sound), whereas the cello and bayan are marked "dissonant expression" (with pizzicati in the cello and tone clusters and wide leaps in the bayan). These qualities are not consistent throughout the 40-plus minutes of this work, but they do give a general idea of the musical content.

To convey the idea of the Cross, Gubaydulina relied on musical metaphors. She has written of how the cello moves "through glissandi of the neighboring strings", of how the bayan (a Russian accordion) crosses through the orchestra, and of the string orchestra's "glissando crossings from unison to multi-octave textures and again back to unison (the figure of the Cross)". The cello and bayan enter tentatively, and their isolated notes resound into space in the first movement, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing". Here and in the second movement, "Woman, behold thy son... Behold thy mother", the two soloists' spare utterances are followed by a ghostly chorale from the string orchestra. Throughout, the reedy sound of the bayan reminds the listener of the instrument's folk origins.

An expressionistic cello line is juxtaposed with those ethereal strings in movement three, "Verily, I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise". In the fourth movement, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?", the very earthbound sounds of the cello and bayan offer strong contrasts with the almost disembodied sounds of the string orchestra. The music becomes strident and intense at this point. By contrast, "I Thirst", the fifth movement, is very spare and desolate. Aggressive tone clusters from the bayan mark "It is accomplished", with gently rocking strings in the background. The final movement, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit", begins with quiet gestures from the cello and bayan. The strings join in, and the texture grows dense and anxious. But the tension recedes and the music ends quietly.

Source: Chris Morrison (

Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931)

♪ Sieben Worte (The Seven Last Words) for cello, bayan and strings (1982)

i. Vater, bergib ihnen, denn sie wissen nicht, was sit tun (Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing)
ii. Weib, siehe, das ist dein Sohn... Siehe, das ist deine Mutter (Woman, behold thy son... Behold thy mother)
iii. Wahrlich, ich sage dir, Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradiese sein (Verily, I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise)
iv. Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)
v. Mich dürstet (I Thirst)
vi. Es ist vollbracht (It is accomplished)
vii. Vater, ich befehle meinen Geist in deine Hände (Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit)

Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello
Geir Draugsvoll, bayan

Norwegian Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Per Kristian Skalstad

Sentralen, Oslo, September 13, 2016

(HD 1080p)

Sofia Gubaidulina was born in Chistopol in the Tatar Republic of the Soviet Union in 1931. After instruction in piano and composition at the Kazan Conservatory, she studied composition with Nikolai Peiko at the Moscow Conservatory, pursuing graduate studies there under Vissarion Shebalin. Until 1992, she lived in Moscow. Since then, she has made her primary residence in Germany, outside Hamburg.

Gubaidulina's compositional interests have been stimulated by the tactile exploration and improvisation with rare Russian, Caucasian, and Asian folk and ritual instruments collected by the "Astreia" ensemble, of which she was a co-founder, by the rapid absorption and personalization of contemporary Western musical techniques (a characteristic, too, of other Soviet composers of the post-Stalin generation including Edison Denisov and Alfred Schnittke), and by a deep-rooted belief in the mystical properties of music.

Her uncompromising dedication to a singular vision did not endear her to the Soviet musical establishment, but her music was championed in Russia by a number of devoted performers including Vladimir Tonkha, Friedrich Lips, Mark Pekarsky, and Valery Popov. The determined advocacy of Gidon Kremer, dedicatee of Gubaidulina's masterly violin concerto, Offertorium, helped bring the composer to international attention in the early 1980s. Gubaidulina is the author of symphonic and choral works, two cello concerti, a viola concerto, four string quartets, a string trio, works for percussion ensemble, and many works for nonstandard instruments and distinctive combinations of instruments. Her scores frequently explore unconventional techniques of sound production.

Since 1985, when she was first allowed to travel to the West, Gubaidulina's stature in the world of contemporary music has skyrocketed. She has been the recipient of prestigious commissions from the Berlin, Helsinki, and Holland Festivals, the Library of Congress, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many other organizations and ensembles. A major triumph was the premiere in 2002 of the monumental two-part cycle, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ according to St John, commissioned respectively by the International Bachakademie Stuttgart and the Norddeutschen Rundfunk, Hamburg.

Gubaidulina made her first visit to North America in 1987 as a guest of Louisville's "Sound Celebration." She has returned many times since as a featured composer of festivals – Boston's "Making Music Together" (1988), Vancouver's "New Music" (1991), Tanglewood (1997), Marlboro (2016) – and for other performance milestones. In May 2011, she was feted on the occasion of her 80th birthday in concerts presented by the California Institute of the Arts and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. From the retrospective concert by Continuum (New York, 1989) to the world premieres of commissioned works – Pro et Contra by the Louisville Orchestra (1989), String Quartet No.4 by the Kronos Quartet (New York, 1994), Dancer on a Tightrope by Robert Mann and Ursula Oppens (Washington, DC, 1994), the Viola Concerto by Yuri Bashmet with the Chicago Symphony conducted by Kent Nagano (1997), Two Paths ("A Dedication to Mary and Martha") for two solo violas and orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Kurt Masur (1999), Light of the End by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Masur (2003), and Pilgrims for violin, double bass, piano and two percussionists (2015) by Chicago's Contempo Ensemble – the accolades of American critics have been ecstatic.

In January 2007, Gubaidulina was the first woman composer to be spotlighted by the BBC during its annual "composer weekend" in London. Among her most recent compositions are Feast During a Plague (2005), jointly commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – and conducted in Philadelphia by Sir Simon Rattle and in Pittsburgh and New York by Sir Andrew Davis – In Tempus Praesens, a violin concerto unveiled at the 2007 Lucerne Festival by Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Rattle, and Glorious Percussion, a concerto for five solo percussionists and orchestra premiered in 2008 by Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

Gubaidulina is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm and of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecila in Rome. She has been the recipient of the Prix de Monaco (1987), the Premio Franco Abbiato (1991), the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis (1991), the Russian State Prize (1992), and the SpohrPreis (1995). Recent awards include the prestigious Praemium Imperiale in Japan (1998), the Sonning Prize in Denmark (1999), the Polar Music Prize in Sweden (2002), the Living Composer Prize of the Cannes Classical Awards (2003), the Great Distinguished Service Cross of the Order of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany (2009), the "Golden Lion" for Lifetime Achievement of the Venice Bieniale (2013), and the Prix de l'Académie Royale de Belgique (2014). In 2005, she was elected as a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Yale University (2009) and the University of Chicago (2011).

Her music is now generously represented on compact disc, and Gubaidulina has been honored twice with the coveted Koussevitzky International Recording Award. Major releases have appeared on the DG, Chandos, Philips, Sony Classical, BIS, Berlin Classics and Naxos labels.


Since its formation in 1977 the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra has established itself as one of the foremost chamber orchestras on the international classical music scene today. Renowned for its innovative programming and creativity, the NCO is a project orchestra comprised of Norway's finest instrumentalists. Through integrating experienced musicians with talented young instrumentalists, the Orchestra continuously develops its unique style and innovative culture, thereby greatly contributing to the position Norwegian musicians and ensembles hold internationally.

The artistic directors and guest leaders throughout its history have been Iona Brown, Leif Ove Andsnes, Isabelle van Keulen, Martin Fröst, François Leleux and Steven Isserlis together with our current artistic director Terje Tønnesen who has held this role since the orchestra's formation.

The Orchestra's international tours to Europe, Asia and North America have received outstanding reviews at many of the world's prestigious concert halls and festivals. With nearly 40 recordings to date, the NCO has recorded comprehensive chamber orchestra repertoire with distinguished soloists, including Leif Ove Andsnes, Terje Tønnesen, Iona Brown, Truls Mørk, Lars Anders Tomter and Tine Thing Helseth. Highlights include the Norwegian award "Spellemannpris" winning recordings of Grieg and Nielsen works and Haydn piano concertos with Leif Ove Andsnes.

The Orchestra draws on an enviable roster of Norwegian and international soloists and has always been dedicated to presenting contemporary music as part of its concert repertoire.

The NCO currently presents its own concert series at the University Aula in Oslo and performs in major concert venues in Norway.

Between 2011 and 2016, the NCO served as the resident chamber orchestra at the Risør Chamber Music Festival.


More photos

See also

Sofia Gubaidulina – All the posts

Sofia Gubaidulina: Offertorium – Vadim Repin, State Academic Symphony Orchestra "Evgeny Svetlanov", Vladimir Jurowski

Sofia Gubaidulina: Sonata for double bass and piano – Daniele Roccato, Fabrizio Ottaviucci (HD 1080p)

Sofia Gubaidulina: Et Exspecto – José Valente (HD 1080p)

Sofia Gubaidulina: De Profundis – José Valente (HD 1080p)

Sofia Gubaidulina: The Canticle of the Sun – Gal Faganel, Slovenian Chamber Choir, Kaspars Putninš (HD 1080p)

Pēteris Vasks: Violin Concerto "Distant Light" – Anthony Marwood, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Sofia Gubaidulina: Fachwerk for bayan, percussion and string orchestra – Geir Draugsvoll, Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra,Terje Tønnesen (HD 1080p)

Thomas Larcher: Ouroboros for violoncello and orchestra – Jean-Guihen Queyras, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Per Kristian Skalstad (HD 1080p)

Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht, for string orchestra – Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Terje Tønnesen

Richard Strauss: Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings – Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Terje Tønnesen (HD 1080p)

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