GUBAIDULINA: And: The Feast is in Full Progress; Ten Preludes – Cellos: David Geringas & Vladimir Tonkha/ Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Jukka-Pekka Saraste – Col legno

by | Oct 1, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

GUBAIDULINA: And: The Feast is in Full Progress; Ten Preludes – Cellos: David Geringas & Vladimir Tonkha/  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Jukka-Pekka Saraste – Col legno WWE-1CD 31881, 46:19  **½:
This is how it starts: Harsh harpsichord chords pound in the background like a thief trying to break in. A cello whimpers timidly, then plaintively. Slowly it explores the performance space, as if peeking around corners for a pesky poltergeist. Tension rises and falls like a bellows, but there is no fire, only a vague chill. What is Gubaidulina’s Concerto No. 2 for Cello and Orchestra about? Fear? Anxiety? Impending war? Spiritual crisis? Possibly all four. Long a religious mystic, the composer based this piece on a poem by Chuvashian poet Gennadi Aigi. The original poem is about a throng of sinners stumbling toward the Last Judgment and perishing in the flames. (In Aigi’s revised version, they confess to God just in time, adding a tidy touch of reconciliation.)
You don’t have to follow the structure of the poem to appreciate the oddly logical dramatic progressions in this 25-minute work. And it doesn’t matter what poem it’s based on. It could just as easily be about the nations of the world teetering toward nuclear annihilation, with a final reprieve for humanity at the end. The orchestral tones are dark, loud, and portentous; the pounding timpani at the halfway point is intermittently terrifying. Only a lyrical interlude at about 15’ saves the piece from abject darkness. Although this interlude is lovely, it is short-lived, scared off by a rumbling orchestra, whereupon it erupts into high-pitched keening. There are windy tutti interludes that try to engulf the work like a Florida hurricane, but the muddy sonics of this recording just aren’t up to it. Most of this turbulence dies down, as the cello moves away from celestial conflict and into a tenuous repose. But you may suspect it’s still lurking in the background. Then again, you may not.
The rest of the CD features Ten Preludes for Cello, a series of short odd pieces that are crisply played by cellist Vladimir Tonkha. They probe various moods and have odd string notations like “senza arco”, finger trilling on the strings without a bow, and “al taco,” another arcane plucking technique. The music in these pieces is rather thin, thematically speaking. They were written as teaching pieces in 1974 but probably won’t probe the depth of your soul like those other cello-teaching masterpieces, Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello. This CD is a diverting, but not a necessary addition to the libraries of Gubaidulina aficionados.
1. Concerto No. 2 For Cello And Orchestra 
2. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 1: Staccato – Legato 
3. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 2: Legato – Staccato 
4. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 3: Con Sordino – senza sordino 
5. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 4: Richochet 
6. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 5: Sul ponticello – ordinario – sul tasto
7. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 6: Flagioletti
8. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 7: Al taco – da punta d’arco
9. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 8: Arco – pizzicato
10. Ten Preludes For Cello: Prelude 9: Pizzicato – arco
11. Ten Preludes For Cello: Senza arco
— Peter Bates
 
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