Works presented this season
String Quartet No. 4
Dolcissimo from The Book
This season, it is SOFIA GUBAIDULINA and PETERIS VASKS that are the focus composers of the Discovery Series. In this second and concluding year of their profiling, we meet two deeply spiritual, modern mystics. Their music, each in its own way, speaks about some ultimate truth. For Vasks, this truth is facing extinction of our environment and life as we know it. Gubaidulina, likewise, does not offer easy solutions, or a vision of a better past. She is at war with the present, with herself, casting off artistic decorum, throwing doubt into the wild mix that almost any work of hers will contain.
It is this internal encounter with the world, with our time, and with ourselves that both Gubaidulina and Vasks explore and speak to with such invincible courage.
SOFIA GUBAIDULINA (b. 1931)
She 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 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. 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), and Light of the End by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Masur (2003) — the accolades of American critics have been ecstatic.
PETERIS VASKS (b. 1946)
The music of Latvian composer Peteris Vasks is often associated with his country's struggle for independence. Indeed, one of his best-known works, the symphony Voices composed in 1990-1991, symbolically and historically reflects Latvia's final steps to freedom. Deeply rooted in the rich folk tradition of Latvia, Vasks' haunting composition invites the listener on a cyclical journey from the timeless beauty of nature's voices emerging from silence to the heartrending cacophony of despair and back to the tranquility of silence.
Critics who discuss Vasks in the context of his Latvian inspiration and artistic debt to Witold Lutoslawski nevertheless acknowledge his originality, his characteristic soulfulness, and melodic subtlety, as well as a universality of expression that identifies Vasks as a major European composer. Born in 1946, Vasks, who studied the double bass at the Lithuanian State Conservatory from 1964 to 1970, worked as an orchestra musician in the 1960s and 1970s. Vasks studied composition with Valentinus Utkins, at the Latvian State Conservatory in Riga, graduating in 1978. Working as a composer since the late '70s, Vasks has forged an original musical style, which commentators have described as spiritual, powerfully evocative, and richly expressive. Vasks' entire oeuvre is informed by the tragic dichotomy between humanistic ideals, symbolized by the vastness of nature and the historical realities of violence and despair. Vasks teaches composition at the Emil Darzins Music School in Riga. His works include Cantabile (1979), Musica Dolorosa for string orchestra (1983), and Lauda (1986), for orchestra.