Publisher: G. Schirmer
Photo © Japan Art Association, The Sankei Shimbun
Sofia Gubaidulina 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.
compositional interests have been stimulated by the tactile exploration
and improvisation with rare Russian, Caucasian, and Asian folk and
ritual instruments collected by the "Astreia" ensemble, of which she was
a co-founder, by the rapid absorption and personalization of
contemporary Western musical techniques (a characteristic, too, of other
Soviet composers of the post-Stalin generation including Edison Denisov
and Alfred Schnittke), and by a deep-rooted belief in the mystical
properties of music.
Her uncompromising dedication to a singular
vision did not endear her to the Soviet musical establishment, but her
music was championed in Russia by a number of devoted performers
including Vladimir Tonkha, Friedrich Lips, Mark Pekarsky, and Valery
Popov. The determined advocacy of Gidon Kremer, dedicatee of
Gubaidulina's masterly violin concerto, Offertorium, helped bring
the composer to international attention in the early 1980s. Gubaidulina
is the author of symphonic and choral works, two cello concerti, a
viola concerto, four string quartets, a string trio, works for
percussion ensemble, and many works for nonstandard instruments and
distinctive combinations of instruments. Her scores frequently explore
unconventional techniques of sound production.
Since 1985, when
she was first allowed to travel to the West, Gubaidulina's stature in
the world of contemporary music has skyrocketed. She has been the
recipient of prestigious commissions from the Berlin, Helsinki, and
Holland Festivals, the Library of Congress, the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many other organizations and
ensembles. A major triumph of the recent past was the premiere in 2002
of the monumental two-part cycle, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ according to St. John, commissioned respectively by the International Bachakademie Stuttgart and the Norddeutschen Rundfunk, Hamburg.
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) — and for
other performance milestones. In May 2011, she was feted on the occasion
of her 80th birthday in concerts presented by the California Institute
of the Arts and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 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.
January 2007, Gubaidulina was the first woman composer to be
spotlighted by the BBC during its annual “composer weekend” in London.
Among her most recent compositions are Feast During a Plague
(2005), jointly commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – and conducted in Philadelphia by Sir
Simon Rattle and in Pittsburgh and New York by Sir Andrew Davis – In Tempus Praesens,
a violin concerto unveiled at the 2007 Lucerne Festival by Anne-Sophie
Mutter with the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Rattle, and Glorious Percussion,
a concerto for five solo percussionists and orchestra premiered in 2008
by Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and the Freie Akademie
der Künste in Hamburg, of the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm and of
the German order "Pour le mérite." She has been the recipient of the
Prix de Monaco (1987), the Premio Franco Abbiato (1991), the
Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis (1991), the Russian State Prize (1992),
and the SpohrPreis (1995). Recent awards include the prestigious
Praemium Imperiale in Japan (1998), the Sonning Prize in Denmark (1999),
the Polar Music Prize in Sweden (2002), the Living Composer Prize of
the Cannes Classical Awards (2003), and the Great Distinguished Service
Cross of the Order of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany
(2009). In 2004, she was elected as a foreign honorary member of the
American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is the recipient of honorary
doctorates from Yale University (2009) and the University of Chicago
Her music is now generously represented on compact
disc, and Gubaidulina has been honored twice with the coveted
Koussevitzky International Recording Award. Major releases have appeared
on the DG, Chandos, Philips, Sony Classical, BIS, and Berlin Classics
Gubaidulina's music is published in North America by G. Schirmer, Inc.
— October 2011