Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Bernd Valentin, Sofia Gubaidulina, Helmuth Rilling|
Gubaidulina: Johannes-Passion, Johannes-Ostern
Gubaidulina's mammoth St. John was written in two parts: the Passion to a commission from the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart to celebrate the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach in September 2000, and the second part a... more »
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Gubaidulina's mammoth St. John was written in two parts: the Passion to a commission from the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart to celebrate the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach in September 2000, and the second part at the request of North German Radio.
Superlative art, piety, insight, and praise
Christopher Culver | 11/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sofia Gubaidulina's "Passion" and "Easter" According to St. John are the composer's masterpiece, a moving choral and orchestral work, and one of the greatest works of Christian piety of our time. Here we are fortunate enough to hear a combined performance of the two by the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR with choir and vocal soloists conducted by Helmuth Rilling. This is a German-language version, and though it's a bit hard for me to get used to the slight changes in the vocal lines that came with translation, it nonetheless both sounds natural and remains faithful to its source in Slavic Orthodoxy.
In 2000 Gubaidulina was one of four composers from different parts of the world brought together by the International Bachakademie Stuttgart to each write a Passion. (The others were Tan Dun, Wolfgang Rihm, and Osvaldo Golijov). The original Russian-language version of the Passion can be heard in a live recording of its premiere on a previous Haenssler Classic disc. The St. John Easter was premiered two years later in 2002, although the composer had sketched much of it even before the Passion itself. This disc is the first time we hear it in commercial recording, although I have long had a radio recording of a performance in the Netherlands that gives me something to compare Rilling's performance to (and he comes out well).
Gubaidulina rooted her Passion and Easter in the liturgical tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church, and because that tradition eschews use of instruments, her work is often mainly bass or tenor solo or choral. Orchestral ventures come in two veins. One is glittering rainbows of metallic percussion and flute representing the life of the world to come ("Liturgie in himmel", "Und ich sah einen neuen Himmel und eine neue Erde"). The other is the wrath of God reserved for unbelievers represented by thunderous percussion and organ. The choral writing is often turned to dramatic effect. Towards the middle of the Passion, the two choruses battle against each together like prosecution and defense about the divinity of Jesus, mixing beautifully sung and spoken word.
What makes Gubaidulina's Passion and Easter so fascinating and original from a textual point of view is her use of a *second* book, the Revelation to St John the Divine. While the Gospel according to St John speaks of what has passed, the Revelation tells of what is to come. In this way Gubaidulina covers the whole of Christian experience, from the founding of the Church to the end of time, and we find that intersection between time and timelessness that pervades so much of her output.
The work has been quite successful in the Russian Orthodox world, but from reviews on the first recording of the Passion, it appears that it doesn't necessarily have an appeal to a general non-Orthodox audience. For the believer, I cannot recommend this work enough. It might just change your life. For the secular listener of Gubaidulina's work, I would still recommend giving it a try, if only for the monumental role that it has in Gubaidulina's career. It also serves as a sort of line of division, for nothing she has written after the Passion and Easter quite lives up to the works before, with a great number of disappointments and few successes, and a seeming turn away from Orthodox programmes."