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Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b.1931)
In tempus praesens (2006-07) [32:45]¹
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto in A minor BWV 1041 [13:28]²
Violin Concerto in E Major BWV 1042 [17:25]²
Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Valery Gergiev¹
Trondheim Soloists/Anne-Sophie Mutter²
rec. Hamburg-Harburg, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, February 2007 (Bach) and AIR Studios, London, February 2008 
Experience Classicsonline

Sofia Gubaidulina’s In tempus praesens is a Violin Concerto written for Anne-Sophie Mutter between 2006 and 2007 and it’s a substantial work lasting just more than half an hour. It was premiered in August 2007 when Mutter performed it at the Lucerne Festival with Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, though for this first recording the LSO and Gergiev do the honours.

Cast in one movement, but sectionally divided into five, it occupies an expressive headland that comes close at times to the Bergian. From the introverted first solo violin statements one feels the increasingly mordant lyricism is part of a fast onrushing schema that pits the solo instrument against the brooding, cajoling orchestral collective – which at times indeed erupts into braying contempt. Early on too we hear Chorale hints that are to recur. Moments of controlled intensity abound – ominous percussion and lowering bass lines – and because Gubaidulina writes with such precision the force is cumulative. If the primary reference is to Berg one may also allude in passing to K.A. Hartmann, and also to moments in the Schnittke Viola Concerto as well. Through the strife and the fissures, through the opposition of solo violin and orchestra, epitomised by one especially gallant held solo note in the face of all orchestral provocation to deviate, what emerges, movingly and with culminatory force, is a gradual conflation if not yet rapprochement between solo violin and orchestra. There’s a final moment of lucid, rather virtuoso-conventional triumphant ascent from the soloist – albeit the orchestra remains predominately baleful and grim and reminds us that there are no easy solutions here or anywhere.

The performances are powerfully engaged, choleric, volatile, tangible and eloquently controlled.

For a complete change of pace and texture you could hardly go further than the Bach concertos; so that’s where Mutter and DG have gone, forsaking the chance to couple this with another of the composer’s works or another contemporary or near contemporary concerto. This time Mutter is joined by the Trondheim Soloists who accompanied her on disc in the Four Seasons not so long ago. She has recorded Bach before, with Accardo, but this time round she uses a baroque bow for crisper articulation. The performances that emerge are compelling but odd. The outer movements whiz by whilst the central ones are full of pellucid and, in the context, oddly distended legato beauty. This can be a mixed blessing when elsewhere the orchestra’s firmly etched bass line is so precise and jabbing and where the finales can feel rushed. The rallentandi in the first movement of the E major sound exaggerated and for all the precision of attack, for all the baroque inspired bowing incision, the finale here as well sounds a bit superficial.

It’s for the Gubaidulina that you should gravitate to this disc really. I have a promotional advance book copy so can’t comment on the booklet – though I assume its text is pretty much the same.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Aart Van der Wal


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