This is a stunning pair of recordings, originally released by DG in 1989, and reissued as part of the label's 20/21 Echo series. Gidon Kremer, the violin virtuoso, is featured on both OFFERTORIUM, a violin concerto, and HOMMAGE a T.S. ELLIOT, where he is joined by soprano voice and other instruments in featured roles. OFFERTORIUM, composed in 1979-80, strikes me as similar in tone, though not derivative of, Schnittke's incredible CONCERTO GROSSO NO. 1, also featuring Kremer on violin.
These "late Soviet" works share a stark contrast between dark and light, and the protagonist's voice is set against powerful forces -- in OFFERTORIUM there are sinister horns, also reminiscent of Shostakovich. The piece is marked at about the half-way point, and then ends, with conventionally beautiful lyrical passages that come as welcome resolution of the tense preceding drama. Dutoit and the Boston Symphony are superb. Both pieces are characterized by complex textures, and internal development that is endlessly fascinating.
HOMMAGE a T.S. ELLIOT is a chamber work in 8 movements which alternates between strings, horns and vocals in various combinations. I've been listening to Boulez's new recording of PLI SELON PLI recently, as well as Schoenberg's PIERROT LUNAIRE and ERWARTUNG, and by comparison, Gubaidulina's writing for soprano voice is outstanding. Both of these works by Sofia Gubaidulina are clearly among the very best of the 20th century!
The homage consists of seven parts. The beginning two part are instrumental only. The first is with strings, a slow and tranquil exploration of sound very characteristic of Gubaidulina's "String Trio". The second is for horns, already much more energetic. In the third part the soprano appears solo, singing a portion from the first of Eliot's quartets, "Burnt Norton." The following movement, again for only strings, is brief and insubstantial, and gives the listener a rest from the intense philosophical insight of the previous. In the fifth part, the soprano returns to sing a portion from "East Coker", this time with the accompaniment of the entire ensemble. After this comes another instrumental movement for strings. The seventh portion begins with a deeply moving interplay between the strings that creates tension and suspense before the soprano marks a stunning climax of the work with the closing lines of "Little Gidding." This is a incredibly deep piece, and as a fan of T.S. Eliot I am quite satisfied with Gubaidulina's insightful and loyal treatment of "Four Quartets".