With Sofia Gubaidulina as the Composer in Residence of KLANGSPUREN 2017, this year’s INTERNATIONAL ENSEMBLE MODERN ACADEMY is all about an encounter with one of the major composers and characteristic voices of contemporary music. By the 1960s this modest musician had begun unrelentingly realizing her fascinating and powerfully expressive musical visions – despite a life marked by long stretches of privation and Soviet ideological oppression. Not until the 1980s was she able to go beyond Soviet borders and become active in the West as well, where she achieved her long-overdue international breakthrough in the early 1990s. Since then, her work has constantly graced the great concert stages of the world. Renowned musicians such as Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet, or Yo-Yo Ma have spread her music to the world. Among the prominent interpreters of her work today are such exceptional young artists as Emmanuel Pahud, Sergio Azzolini, Vadim Repin, Antoine Tamestit, or Nicolas Altstaedt.
Born as the daughter of a Tatar father and a Russian mother in Chistopol in 1931, Gubaidulina grew up in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, on the banks of the Volga and later went to Moscow, where she studied, graduated, and lived for three decades as a freelance composer and improvisational musician. In 1992 she decided to immigrate to Germany, where she lives today, in a small village near Hamburg. Inspired by defiant musicians like Maria Yudina and Andrei Volkonsky and encouraged in her nonconformist attitude by Dmitri Shostakovich, she and colleagues such as Alfred Schnittke or Edison Denisov ushered in a second golden age of Russian avant-garde music (following the heyday in the 1920s). For her life work to date she has received numerous distinctions, such as the Japanese Praemium Imperiale, the Polar Music Prize, the European Cultural Award, or the Golden Lion of the Biennale di Venezia.
Because Gubaidulina interrupted her initial career as a pianist to devote herself entirely to her childhood dream of composing and has therefore never given regular lessons, IEMA participants will have the rare opportunity of sharing the immense trove of experience of a great artist and witness of contemporary history. Since the beginning of her career she has intensively developed new musical possibilities and unlocked an enormous repertoire of compositional techniques. Her tireless love of experimentation and human curiosity, the richness of form and evocation in her music, the unsettling interplay between familiar gestures and uncharted tonal territory in often unconventional instrumentations, the dramaturgies of her works that usually grow out of silence, sometimes soaring to ecstatic elation, sometimes unfolding with catastrophic momentum – all this Gubaidulina uses to convey her deeply felt extramusical messages. In this way, in the most positive sense a spiritual music of existential import and complex emotions emerges which tells not only of deep religiousness and humanity but also of cultural diversity and a profound rootedness in tradition. The works from various creative periods presented in the festival program of KLANGSPUREN 2017 bear stirring testimony to this.