Melodiya presents an unusual interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord. Written during the Cöthen period (1717-23), the sonatas, along with the solo suites for cello, violin and harpsichord, are the highest chamber instrumental accomplishments of the great German master. Today they belong to the golden repertoire of cello music, although at times they are played on other stringed instruments.
This collection is one with which a love/hate relationship is nearly inevitable. To really listen to this music requires energic concentration - you'll be emotionally exhausted. On the other hand, other than the first piece "In croce", you may put the music on and continue about your other work - treating it almost as ambience. While Gubaidulina has obviously been influence by chromaticism, and her choice of instruments, bayan, reflects her background Turkic Russian, she writes with a firm independence. The cello, bayan and strings are used in a way that make you think this is exactly the correct instrumentation - even after reading that "In croce" originally used an organ.
The bayan is a Russian accordion with a distinctively Eastern European timbre that Gubaidulina has featured in several of her works. Her idiomatic writing for the instrument exploits its coloristic and expressive range as both a melodic and harmonic instrument. In Fachwerk for bayan, percussion, and strings, she uses the percussion with great subtlety as a member of the accompanying forces to provide color and a rhythmic and dynamic foundation for the strings, rather than falling into the temptation of exploiting its potential for taking center stage.
“There is no more important reason for composing music than spiritual renewal.”–Sofia Gubaidulina. Shostakovich once famously said of his student, Sofia Gubaidulina, “I want you to continue along your mistaken path.” Mistaken, that was, in the former Soviet Union, where the deliverance preached through her devout composing sat uncomfortably with censors. So much so that when she composed her Seven Words in 1982, she was obliged to leave out “…of Our Savior on the Cross” from its title. Nevertheless, this riveting work is one of the twentieth century’s reigning masterpieces.