Gubaidulina, Sofia

views updated Jun 11 2018

Sofia Gubaidulina


Criticized by Professors

Tagged as Avant-Garde

Traveled to North America

Milestone Birthday Honors

Selected compositions

Selected discography


Until the political situation changed in her native Russia, Sofia Gubaidulina struggled in obscurity as a composer. Her music was officially rebuffed by government-controlled cultural institutions for more than two decades after she graduated from the Moscow Conservatory. It was deemed unacceptable in part because of the overtly spiritual themes Gubaidulina drew upon for inspiration, but that same emotional resonance in her music has brought her an appreciative international audience.

Gubaidulina was a relative unknown in the West until the 1980s, but her unusual compositions, which often deployed uncommon folk instruments, brought her renown. Her repertoire includes symphonic and choral works, concertos for string instruments, and works for percussion groups. Karen Campbell, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, asserted that Gubaidulinas is one of the most original, powerful, and highly respected voices in the world of contemporary music. Although she now lives in Germany, Gubaidulina has been deemed Russias greatest living composer, and in 2002 the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded her its esteemed Polar Music Prize in recognition for the years her career languished due to political tyranny.

Born in 1931, Gubaidulina was the daughter of a land-survey engineer who was of Tatar heritage. The Tatars were originally a Turkic-speaking group from East Central Asia; they intermarried with Mongols during the latter groups peak of power in the 1200s. Gubaidulinas grandfather was an Islamic mullah, as the Tatars had become Sunni Muslim in the fourteenth century.

During the 1930s, religious tolerance in the officially atheist Soviet Union was so negligible that Gubaidulinas father faced the threat of jail merely for being the son of a member of the clergy. Her mother was a teacher by training, and Gubaidulina was the youngest of three daughters in a family that also maintained ties to their Russian Orthodox side as well.

Criticized by Professors

Gubaidulina has said that she dreamed of becoming a composer even as a child, and she often prayed that her goal would come to fruition. The years of World War II brought hardships, and she contracted a case of scurvy as a teenager. She studied piano and composition at the Kazan Conservatory of Music and from there moved to the esteemed Moscow Conservatory for further study. There she began to encounter problems with the state-sponsored and politically driven musical establishment in what was then the Soviet Union. As she recalled in an interview with Perspectives of New Music writer Vera Lukomsky, At that time in our Department of Composition at the Moscow Conservatory, I and some other student composers were the object of a severe critique. And although we were accepted to the graduate school, the Conservatory officials declared that, despite our giftedness and capacity for hard work, we had chosen the wrong way, or what they called a false way.

Gubaidulina received encouragement from an impressive source of wisdom at this time: the composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose career had successfully negotiated changing Soviet political tides during the 1930s and 1940s. Shostakovich chaired the State Examination Committee and recognized the talent in Gubaidulinas submitted compositions for her graduate degree. He told her afterward that he had defended it against the critiques of other professors, and that Everybody thinks that you are moving in the wrong direction, Gubaidulina recalled in the interview with Lukomsky. But I wish you to continue on your mistaken path.

Tagged as Avant-Garde

Gubaidulina did just that, but she found little official recognition for her work. She was, however, able to earn a living as a composer for Soviet-made films, which gave her a degree of freedom to experiment. On the side, she wrote longer compositions, but they were often rejected for performance. In 1975 she founded an improvisation group, Astraea, with two other composers, Vyacheslav Artyomov and Victor Suslin. The trio used folk instruments from across the Soviet republics such as the bayan, a concert accordion. She was often tagged as a member of the Russian avant-garde. Gubaidulina opposed the totalitarianism of Soviet ideology, Lukomsky explained. Her predilection for

For the Record

Born in 1931 in Chistopol, Tatar Autonomous Republic, U.S.S.R. (now Russia); daughter of a land-survey engineer and a teacher; married; children: one daughter. Education: Studied piano and composition, Kazan Conservatory of Music; graduated from Moscow Conservatory, 1959.

Wrote music for films in U.S.S.R., early 1960s; founded improvisation group Astraea with composers Vyacheslav Artyomov and Victor Suslin, 1975; compositions first performed in the West, early 1980s; moved to Germany, 1992.

Awards: Prix de Monaco, 1987; Premio Franco Abbiato, 1991; Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis, 1991; Russian State Prize, 1992; the; Russian State Prize, 1992; the SpohrPreis, 1995; Praemium Imperiale (Japan), 1998; Sonning Prize (Denmark), 1999; Polar Music Prize, Royal Swedish Academy of Music, 2002.

Member: Deutsche Akademie der Künste (Berlin, Germany); Freie Akademie der Künste (Hamburg, Germany).

Addresses: Publisher G. Schirmer Promotion Dept., 257 Park Ave. South, 20th Fir., New York, NY 10010, e-mail: [email protected].

mysticism and metaphysics, her religious spirituality and musical fantasy that often project images of the Apocalypse and the Last Judgment, her preoccupation with musical symbols of crucifixion, resurrection, and transfiguration, did not, of course, meet the requirements of Socialist Realism.

Working in such a repressive atmosphere was difficult for her. For an artist to be put in the position of restriction to what is correct is terrible, the composer said in the Christian Science Monitor interview with Campbell. In a free society, one feels absolute freedom as a danger. One has to establish ones own personal regulation to recognize innate potential. But in a totalitarian regime, we have the task of shedding the shackles of restraint in order to realize that potential. Some of her early works went unrecorded for years. Chaconne, dating from 1962, and Piano Sonata from 1965 were recorded by Vladimir Yurigin-Klevke for the Sony label only in 1995. American Record Guide reviewer Mark L. Lehman found that in the Sonata, Gubaidulina by this time was evolving her personal blend of avant-garde techniques and religious connotations. It opens and closes with jazzily nervous violence, though the conclusion of the long first movement, with its bare liturgical fifths and upward aspiring melodic line, has a stately liturgical calm.

Fortunately, Gubaidulina found a champion in Gidon Kremer, a Latvian-born violinist with an international reputation. Kremer had lived in the West since the late 1970s, and he liked to perform Gubaidulinas work in his programs, especially a violin concerto titled Offer-torium. The American premiere of Offertorium came in early 1985 when Kremer appeared with the New York Philharmonic. Times Michael Walsh witnessed it and noted that By Western standards, Offertorium may be tame, but given the governmental restrictions on the stylistic range of Soviet music, it shows Gubaidulina to be a fresh, challenging voice in her country.

Traveled to North America

Soviet authorities allowed Gubaidulina to travel to Europe in 1985, and in 1987 she came to North America for the first time to take part in the Louisville Symphony Orchestras Sound Celebration. The following year, she participated in a Boston cultural event, Making Music Together, aimed at highlighting improved Americah-U.S.S.R relations under reform-minded Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. The events aroused interest in Gubaidulinas music and her plight behind the Iron Curtain.

By 1989, however, that Curtain was collapsing, and two years later the Soviet Union itself broke into several different republics, jettisoning its Communist government along the way. Gubaidulina was suddenly free to work and travel as she pleased. In the 1990s she took part in several international music festivals, and respected orchestras began commissioning works from her. The Kronos Quartet, for instance, premiered her String Quartet No. 4 in New York in 1994. Dancer on a Tightrope, a work for violin and piano in which the pianist strikes the strings at times with a thimble or a drinking glass, made its debut in Washington, D.C., that same year. Viola Concerto was performed with the Chicago Symphony by Yuri Bashmet in 1997.

Gubaidulinas Canticle of the Sun, based on the poems of St. Francis of Assisi, made its world premiere in Washington in 1998. It featured a solo cello, percussion instruments, and a chamber choir, and was dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, the acclaimed Russian cellist. He performed its British premiere in early 1999. Gubaidulinas concerto, Two Paths (Dedication to Mary and Martha), for two violas and orchestra, was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and enjoyed a critically acclaimed world premiere at Lincoln Center in April of 1999. Its theme centers around the two sisters of the biblical figure Lazarus. On that same day at Lincoln Center, another concerto from Gubaidulina was also heard by the audience for the first time ever: In the Shadow of the Tree, written for two Asian instruments, the Japanese koto and the Chinese zhen, and orchestra.

Gubaidulina often makes use of other unusual instruments or combinations of instruments. In Croce, written in 1979, features a cello and bayan. Quasi hoquetus, a work dating back to 1984, is a one-movement piece for bassoon, viola, and piano. Most of her works are highly modernist pieces. Gubaidulinas composition emphasizes duration, timbre and serial polyphony and features pugnacious dynamics, rampant fragmentation and aggravated repetition, wrote Commercial Appeal critic Fredric Koeppel of her style. As fearsome as these qualities may seem, her approach is deeply thoughtful, even introspective, qualities that draw, perhaps, upon her long and quiet opposition to the former Communist regime, as well as her Tatar heritage and Christian beliefs, Koeppel noted.

Milestone Birthday Honors

To mark her seventieth birthday, Gubaidulina was honored with a tribute by the Continuum ensemble in New York City in early 2002. That year, her St. John Passion was released on the Hanssler record label. A critic for American Record Guide, Philip Greenfield, found it impressive. Staying true to her roots, the composer has crafted a work that tends toward dark austerity and an economy of expression, Greenfield declared. He singled out certain passages for praise. The inexorable procession to Golgotha, complete with percussion, snarling brass, nasty choral sprechstimme, and evocations of the fire and hail of Judgement Day, is hair-raising.

Gubaidulina was honored with the Polar Music Prize in 2002 from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. A co-recipient that year was South African singer Miriam Makeba, and the Academy honored bothand be-stowed one million Swedish kronor ($100,000)because they had been denied the right of public expression by their respective governments and political systems, according to a Billboard article.

Gubaidulina has resided in Germany since 1992, making her residence outside Hamburg. She was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to compose works for a 2003 program, and she planned for a joint project with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra for a 2006 premiere. With the death of Alfred Schnittke in 1998, Gubaidulina became the last living member in a trio of acclaimed postwar Soviet composers that once included the late Edison Denisov as well. She and Schnittke had once discussed the process of composing, and Schnittke explained that he derived his compositions from what he viewed as a single musical cell, which he then expanded upon. In my case its the opposite, Gubaidulina told Financial Times journalist Andrew Clark. In the first instance, perhaps on a walk, I hear a huge, shapeless, multi-faceted sound, absolutely fascinating, with everything piled up together in a way you could never notatesomething which exists outside time. Its like a present, and I consider it a duty to transform it from vertical to horizontal. To listen to her end result, she believes, is to reverse that process. Because of the hidden power of memory, she told Clark, the listener follows the horizontal form, and builds it back into the vertical.

Selected compositions

Sonatina (piano), 1952.

8 Preludes (piano), 1955.

Fazelija (soprano, orchestra), 1956.

Variations (string quartet), 1956.

Piano Quintet, 1957.

Symphony No. 1 (orchestra), 1958.

Adagio and Fugue (violin, string orchestra), 1960.

Intermezzo (8 trumpets, 16 harps, percussion), 1961.

Chaconne (piano), 1962.

Triumph (overture), 1963.

Allegro rustico (flute, piano), 1963.

5 Études (harp, double bass, percussion), 1965.

Sonata (piano), 1965.

Pantomime (double bass, piano), 1966.

Night in Memphis (mezzo-soprano, mens chorus, orchestra), 1968.

Musical Toys (piano; for children), 1969.

Rubáiyát (baritone, chamber orchestra), 1969.

Concordanza (ten instruments), 1971.

Fairy Tale Poem (orchestra), 1971.

String Quartet No. 1, 1971.

Toccata-troncata (piano), 1971.

Detto II (cello, orchestra), 1972.

Stufen (speaking chorus, orchestra), 1972.

Invention (piano), 1974.

Quattro (two trumpets, two trombones), 1974.

10 Preludes (cello), 1974.

Concerto (bassoon, low strings), 1975.

Laudatio Pacis (soprano, alto, tenor, bass, speaker, two choruses, orchestra), 1975.

Concerto (orchestra, jazz band), 1976.

Dots, Line, and Zigzag (bass clarinet, piano), 1976.

Light and Darkness (organ), 1976.

Trio (three trumpets), 1976.

Duo Sonata (two bassoons), 1977.

Lamento (tuba, piano), 1977.

On Tatar Folk Themes (domra, piano), 1977.

Muzika (harpsichord, percussion), 1977.

Quartet (four flutes), 1977.

Song Without Words (trumpet, piano), 1977.

Detto I (organ, percussion), 1978.

Flute Sonatina, 1978.

Introitus (piano, chamber orchestra), 1978.

Sounds of the Forest (flute, piano), 1978.

Te salutant (large light orchestra), 1978.

In croce (cello and organ), 1979.

Jubilatio (four percussion), 1979.

Offertorium (violin, orchestra), 1980.

Descensio (nine instruments), 1981.

Sonata: Rejoice! (violin, cello), 1981.

(Last) 7 Words (cello, bayan, strings), 1982.

Perception (soprano, baritone, two violins, two violas, three cellos, double bass, tape), 1983.

Hommage à Marina Tsvetayeva (chorus), 1984.

Quasi Hoquetus (viola, bassoon, piano), 1984.

Hommage à T.S. Eliot (soprano, eight instruments), 1987.

String Quartet No. 2, 1987.

String Quartet No. 3, 1987.

Witty Waltzing in the Style of Johann Strauss (soprano and eight instruments), 1987.

Jauchzt vor Gott (chrous, organ), 1989.

Alleluia (boy soprano, chorus, orchestra), 1990.

Aus dem Stundenbuch (mens chorus, cello, orchestra), 1991.

Jetzt Immer Schnee (chamber chorus, chamber ensemble), 1993.

Und: Das Feste ist in vollem Gange (cello concerto), 1993.

An Angel (alto and double bass), 1994.

Der Seiltänzer (violin sonata), 1994.

In Erwartung (saxophone quartet, six percussionists), 1994.

Music (flute, strings, percussion), 1994.

String Quartet No. 4, 1994.

Galgenlieder a 3 (mezzo-soprano, double bass, and percussion), 1995-96.

Galgenlieder a 5 (mezzo-soprano, flute, percussion, bayan, double bass), 1996.

Quaternion (four cellos), 1996.

Song Cycle (soprano, double bass), 1996.

The Canticle of the Sun (concerto for cello, chamber chorus, percussion orchestra), 1997.

In the Shadow of the Tree (koto, bass koto, zheng, and orchestra), 1998.

Two Paths (two violas, orchestra), 1998.

St. John Passion (soloists, two choruses, orchestra), 1999.

Selected discography

String quartet no. 15, op. 144/Dmitri Shostakovich. Rejoice!/Sofia Gubaidulina, CBS Masterworks, 1989.

Offertorium; Hommage à T. S. Eliot, Deutsche Grammophon, 1989.

Kronos Quartet, Night Prayers, Elektra Nonesuch, 1994.

Chaconne/Part: Partita, Sony, 1995.

Alleluia/Sofia Gubaidulina. Miserere/Henryk Gorecki, Chandos, 1997.

The Feast in Full Progress, 10 Preludes. (David Geringas, Vladimir Tonkha, Finnish Radio Symphony, Jukka-Pekka Saraste), Col Legno/Qualiton, 1998.

Duo Sonata, Quasi hoquetus, Concerto for Bassoon and Low Strings (Valeri Popov, bassoon, and Russian State Symphony Orchestra), Chandos, 1999.

St. John Passion, Hanssler, 2002.



Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Centennial Edition, Nicolas Slonimsky, Editor Emeritus, Schirmer, 2001.


American Record Guide, November-December 1994, p. 122; July-August 1995, p. 117; January-February 1996, p. 118; July-August 1996, p. 121; March-April 1997, p. 144; November-December 1997, p. 130; July-August 1998, p. 131; January 2001, p. 136; March 2002, p. 105.

Billboard, March 16, 2002, p. 76.

Christian Science Monitor, August 27, 1997, p. 13.

Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), May 8, 1999, p. F4.

Financial Times, January 11, 1999, p. 18.

Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2000, p. E1.

New York Times, February 16, 2002, p. B21.

Nordic Business Report, March 5, 2002.

Perspectives of New Music, Winter 1998, p. 5.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), April 23, 1999, p. 35.

Time, February 4, 1985, p. 82.


Compositions by Sofia Gubaidulina, Soviet Composers, (October 18, 2002).

Carol Brennan

Gubaidulina, Sofia

views updated Jun 11 2018

Sofia Gubaidulina

One of the most widely acclaimed composers to emerge from the Soviet Union in its final decades of existence, Sofia Gubaidulina (born 1931) forged a unique musical language marked by such diverse elements as Christian spirituality, musical symbolism, unique structures derived from fragmentation and repetition of simple material, and the use of folk instruments from the Central Asian regions where her own roots lay.

"Every composition is an enormous labor for me," Gubaidulina told Karen Campbell of the Christian Science Monitor. At the beginning, she said, she hears in her head "a vertical sound of colorful, moving, clashing chords, completely mixed up and jumbled. It is wonderful and beautiful, but it isn't real. My job is to turn that vertical sound into a horizontal line. Those two lines, horizontal and vertical, make a cross, and I think about that when I compose." That statement might serve as a kind of compositional credo for Gubaidulina, whose work has successfully merged spiritual influences with extremely original techniques. That combination hampered Gubaidulina's early career, when the repression of creative artists by the Soviet state was at its height, but in the eclectic 1980s and 1990s she became one of the hottest new composers on the international classical scene.

Had Mixed Islamic and Orthodox Background

Gubaidulina was born on October 24, 1931, in Chistopol, in the Tatar Autonomous Republic of the Soviet Union. She grew up in the Tatar capital of Kazan, on the Volga River. Her mother was of Russian, and Russian Orthodox, background, but her father was a Tatar, a member of an ethnic minority group with its own language and a predominantly Islamic tradition. Gubaidulina's father, a surveyor, adhered to the official atheism of the Soviet Union (and never liked Gubaidulina's religious tendencies), but his own father had been a Sunni Islamic mullah. At the height of dictator Josef Stalin's attempts to use his vast gulag to remake the whole of Soviet society, this fact put Gubaidulina's family at risk of imprisonment and death. "Our family lived in permanent stress, expecting his arrest every night," Gubaidulina told Vera Lukomsky in a Perspectives of New Music interview. I remember all the family shivered with fright. Actually, the whole country shivered. Though Gubaidulina had her own troubles with the Soviet state later on, she believed that her own situation was not even comparable to that of her father.

World War II brought the deaths of tens of millions of people in the Soviet Union and tremendous hardship to many more. For Gubaidulina's family the later stages of the war meant extreme hunger and poverty, and when Gubaidulina was sixteen she suffered a case of scurvy, a gruesome disease in which the body begins to break down as a result of vitamin C deficiency. But she survived, and after the war she was able to fulfill a dream she had had since childhood, enrolling at the Kazan Conservatory of Music to study piano and composition.

She impressed her teachers there well enough that she was able to move on to the Moscow Conservatory, one of the premier music-educational establishments in the Soviet Union. There she began to run into trouble almost immediately, for her style, though still developing, bore little resemblance to the Socialist Realism prescribed by the Communist Party, with its overblown choral cantatas and operas celebrating the lives of the proletariat. Gubaidulina and a group of other graduate composition students were subjected to what she called a severe critique. For her graduation exam, the famed composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who had had his own brushes with Party commissars, was the chair of her faculty committee.

Party functionaries on the committee attacked Gubaidulina's work while admitting that it was well made. She was defended by Shostakovich and eventually passed the exam, graduating in 1959. After the exam, Gubaidulina told Lukomsky, Shostakovich told her that "everybody thinks you are moving in the wrong direction. But I wish you to continue on your 'mistaken' path." The words were an inspiration to Gubaidulina, who told Lukomsky that "he supported me in my striving for freedom, my striving to be myself. It means that he defended the right of an artist to be him- or herself and go along his or her own path, even if it seemed 'false.'"

Wrote Film Scores

Hardly in good standing with the Soviet state cultural establishment, Gubaidulina supported herself by writing film scores in the 1960s–an occupation Shostakovich also pursed at various stages of his career. On the side, however, she was moving toward a yet more experimental style. She was one of a group of Soviet composers who circulated around Filipp Herschkowits, an Austrian student of Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern who had fled to the Soviet Union to escape fascism in the 1930s. Gubaidulina also studied with composer Vissarion Shebalin. By 1962 she had written the first of her works that later became well known in the West: the Chaconne for piano. Her Piano Sonata of 1965 was a major work showing the sharp contrast between large dissonant masses of sound and passages of seemingly religious calm that were to become characteristic of her work. Though composed during this time, these pieces were not recorded until 1995. In the late 1960s Gubaidulina was part of an experimental improvisation and electronic music group called Astrea.

Gubaidulina remained virtually unknown for the first part of her career, and in Russia much of her music remained difficult to obtain until around the turn of the millennium. Things began to change, though, when Gidon Kremer, a Latvian-born violinist who had moved to the West but kept in touch with Soviet developments, began to champion her work. Kremer focused on the works of composers, such as Estonia's Arvo Pârt, who cultivated simple yet rigorous styles with an aspect of spirituality, and Gubaidulina's Offertorium, a piece for violin and orchestra originally contemplated as part of a setting of the Mass, seemed tailormade for his concerts. He often performed that work and others by Gubaidulina in the 1980s. Gubaidulina also made an international impression with The Seven Words, a work that fell into a long tradition of classical compositions that used instruments to evoke the seven last words of Jesus Christ as he was crucified. The work was written for cello, accordion, and string orchestra, with the expansion and contraction of the accordion symbolizing Christ's breathing. Musical representations of the cross were also woven into the work at various points, and its forces included a bayan, a Central Asian instrument. Other Gubaidulina works also used musical symbolism over the course of a structure that often seemed to end with some kind of state of enlightenment.

In 1985 Gubaidulina was allowed to leave the Soviet Union for the first time, traveling to Europe. She came to the United States in 1987 to attend a "Sound Celebration" performance by the Louisville (Kentucky) Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble with a long history of presenting contemporary music, and she returned the following year for Making Music Together, a Boston, Massachusetts, event designed to featured cooperation between American and Russian musicians and to capitalize on the new freedoms Russian creative artists enjoyed during the glasnost period of cultural openness promoted by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1990, Gubaidulina began to experiment with specifications of colored lighting in the score for her Alleluia, a work for chorus, boy soprano, and orchestra.

Gubaidulina's music remained better known in the West than in her homeland. After receiving a series of prizes that included the Prix de Monaco in 1987, she moved to Germany in 1992, making her home near Hamburg. Commissions from top Western orchestras and small ensembles began to flow her way, and her String Quartet No. 4 was premiered by San Francisco's hugely popular Kronos Quartet in 1994. Gubaidulina's scores sometimes called for unorthodox instrumental techniques, a longtime hallmark of the concert-music avant-garde; in her Dancer on a Tightrope, also from 1994, the pianist must strike the instrument's strings with a thimble or drinking glass. She refused to be labeled as an avant-garde composer, however, arguing that composers should strive for depth rather than innovation. In 1997, Gubaidulina's Viola Concerto (a concerto is a work for soloist and orchestra) was showcased on a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert with violist Yuri Bashmet.

Composed Massive Religious Work for Millennium

Well into senior citizenhood, Gubaidulina showed little sign of slowing down. For the turn of the millennium in 2000, she composed a huge work for chorus and orchestra, the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ According to St. John, mixing texts from the Gospel of John with others from the Book of Revelations and the Book of Ezekiel. "The result," wrote Guardian critic Gerald McBurney, was "an apocalyptic vision in which, despite sumptuous musical resources used with almost cinematic grandeur, the words dominate…. However imposing and colorful the accumulating thunder of voices, orchestra, and organ, the score of Gubaidulina's Passion and Resurrection is still at heart … 'poor' stuff, disturbingly stripped down and made of very simple things." A 2005 work called The Light of the End, composed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, "describes a journey from confusion and darkness—in the form of blurry clouds of orchestral color at the beginning—to a radiant close, dominated by the piercing brightness of the clearest bell sounds," McBurney wrote. Gubaidulina began work on another large composition, slated to be performed by the combined Philadelphia and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras in 2006.

Gubaidulina's list of prizes continued to grow, and in 2002 she shared the Polar Music Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, with South African vocalist Miriam Makeba. The two artists were picked because they had both made music under politically oppressive conditions. "In my case," Gubaidulina told Jeffrey de Hart of Billboard, "it was ideological oppression. Those artists who decided to be true to themselves had to face very difficult living conditions. We were able to write and paint what we wanted, but we knew that we would be poor people." Indeed, despite her $100,000 proceeds from the Polar Music Prize, Gubaidulina continued to live modestly in Germany. What mattered to her was the importance of music in contemporary society. "The whole world is threatened by spiritual passivity, an entropy of the soul, a transition from more complex energy to a simpler form … amorphousness," she told Karen Campbell. "What puts the brakes on that process is the human spirit, and, in part, art, and that is a matter for serious music." Although Gubaidulina's works were quite distinct from one another, she was fairly prolific; her catalog numbered close to 100 works as of 2005.


Contemporary Musicians, volume 39, Gale, 2003.

Sadie, Stanley, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., Macmillan, 2001.


Billboard, June 15, 2002.

Christian Science Monitor, August 27, 1997.

Guardian (London, England), August 12, 2005.

Perspectives of New Music, Winter 1998.


"Sofia Gubaidulina," All Music Guide, (December 20, 2005).

Gubaidulina, Sofia

views updated May 21 2018

Gubaidulina, Sofia (b Chistopol, Tatar, 1931). Russ. composer. In 1975, with Artyomow and Suslin, founded Astreya, a group which improvised on rare Russ., Caucasian, and Central Asian folk instr. Her Stufen for orch. won first prize at Rome int. comp. competition 1975. Regarded, with Schnittke and Denisov, as one of leaders of Soviet mus. since death of Shostakovich. Has wide literary interests and her music is influenced by religious faith.