Sofia Gubaidulina was born in Christopol in the Tatar Republic of the USSR. Her parents were of Russian and Tatar ancestry. She studied music at the Moscow Conservatory from 1954 to 1963 Was a part of Khrennikov’s Seven- a group of seven Russian Soviet composers denounced for their participation of a music festival in Cologne. Music was a form of escape from the threats posed by the socio-political atmosphere of Soviet Russia for Gubaidulina. Her association of music with human transcendence and mystical spiritualism are reflected in her works. Her later works include numerical concepts such as the Fibonacci Series and the Golden Mean. She is known for the use of unusual instruments, such as the bayan and the Japanese koto, and the use of extended techniques on traditional instruments, such as manipulating the strings of a piano.
Her earliest composition, this piano solo piece begins with loud, ringing chords. The piece is characterized by propulsive rhythmic passages inspired by the Baroque form of the Chaconne. However, the piece does not have a Baroque dance rhythm or the typical triple meter.
Gubaidulina constructs the piece using dissonances in separate hands to vary the recurring eight-bar theme. The first ‘variation’ uses left-hand octave scalar passages which drives the theme in the right hand. The second part beginning on 1:50 has a rhythmic pattern in the right hand of repeated notes in varying rhythms but in a succession of five. The tempo of the piece picks up after 3:00 and the texture thickens, containing the most virtuosity passage of the piece. The texture thins out for a Mozart-cadenza like passage.
A Bach-like motive can be heard from 4:00 onwards and a consistent duple meter can be felt. The opening 8 measures of the piece appears and 1:30 minutes before the end of the piece at 7:37.
Copland’s Passaglia of 1921-22
Is an earlier take of the similar Baroque form. The harmonies in Copland’s piece are a lot clearer, and Copland incorporates modes which appear with less activity surrounding them. The variations in Copland’s are longer in duration. On the score, the piece looks simpler and more united in both hands than Gubaidulina’s. From 3:30 onwards, Copland incorporates a swing section, making the mood of the piece lighter than Gubaidulina’s.
Both pieces are varied in the use of different registers of the piano, and sections with large spaces between both hands are present in both pieces. Scalar passages are used much throughout both pieces, both in Octavic scalar passages.
This piece may not be a typical example of Gubaidulina’s composition, but it is a piece worth studying. There are much opportunities in the performance of this piece for the pianist to showcase technical virtuosity in the octave sections, scalar passages, and sensitivity in coloristic playing in the quieter sections.
Copland: Pasagcallia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPrRvr2vx8M
Gubaidulina: Chaconne https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_D2H47jhNQ
Sitsky, Larry. Music of the twentieth-century avant-garde: a biocritical sourcebook. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Kurtz, Michael, and Malcolm Hamrick Brown. Sofia Gubaidulina: a biography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.