Gubaidulina Complete Guitar Works — Essential Listening

Sofia Gubaidulina hasn’t written much for the guitar — it all fits handily on a single CD. But what a CD! Her unique voice seems well-suited to the instrument, as this new release shows.

Repentance, from 2008, is the biggest work on the album. To my ears it seemed a study on held and repeated notes for violin and guitar. Vaguely modal harmonies and light texture takes the listener on an introspective journey through a sparse and sometimes strange sonic landscape before arriving at its conclusion.

This version for three guitars, cello and bass actually third iteration of this music. First was Ravvedimento for cello and guitar quartet, then Pentimento for bass and three guitars (both from 2007). This version includes both bass and cello, and represents perhaps a consolidation of the other two versions — at least in the string parts.

The other major work on the album, Sotto Voce, is also from three guitars and strings — this time viola and bass. It’s also a work that uses its instrumental forces sparingly. According to Gudaidulina, the three lowest guitar strings “contains the mystery of a purely acoustic phenomenon,” that can be exploited in different ways, depending on whether the string’s lightly touched or plucked hard. The motif generated by those three strings is then explored by the other instruments in fascinating and sometimes unexpected ways I found deeply compelling.

Rounding out the album are two short works. Serenade (1960) is the earliest composition, and treats the guitar in a more traditional fashion. It seems to have almost a Spanish flavor to it.

The Toccata from 1969 receives its world premier recording. Gubaidulina also treats the guitar in a somewhat traditional manner in this piece, though with an almost non-stop melody that runs throughout the three -minute work.

David Tanenbaum and his colleagues perform with delicacy and precision throughout, bringing sympathetic readings to these works. All in all, an important addition to Gubaidulina’s recorded catalog.

Sofia Gubaidulina: Complete Guitar Works
Repentance; Serenade; Toccata; Sotto Voce
David Tanenbaum, Thomas Viloteau, Paul Psarras, Marc Teicholz, guitar; Peter Wyrick, cello; Mark Wright, Scott Pingel, bass; Jodi Levitz, viola
Naxos 8.573379

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