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By Antoine du Rocher

LOS ANGELES, 3 MAY 2011 — Now in her 80th year, and widely regarded as the most important Russian composer since Shostakovich, Russia's Sofia Gubaidulina makes a rare U.S. appearance with a series of four concerts later this month at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney / CalArts Theater), the multi-disciplinary contemporary arts center for visual, performing and media arts located inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Each concert programme offers an aperçu of Gubaidulina's creative output.  A Sunday afternoon programme pairs an animated film (The Cat Who Walked by Herself ) scored by Gubaidulina, with concert works written for children, but accessible to adults. Sunday evening features works that showcase her fascination with the mystery of percussive sound, her adaptations of ancient musical impulses to new expressive ends, and her portrait of a soul's journey in Concerto for bassoon and low strings. Two final programmes on Monday and Tuesday include hallmark contributions to the concerto form —  Introitus, for piano and chamber orchestra, Offertorium, a concerto for violin and orchestra and Detto II, for cello and chamber ensemble. 

Sofia Gubaidulina was born in Chistopol in the Tatar Republic of the Soviet Union in 1931. Her father was a Tatar from a Muslim background and her mother was Slavic. 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. She was always at odds with the Soviet regime in which she has spent most of her life.  

Gubaidulina's spiritual music, with its mix of Slavic, Tatar, Jewish and Russian Orthodox sounds and religious symbolism, was labelled "irresponsible" under Stalin and largely banned. Still, with encouraging words from Shostakovich to pursue her "mistaken path," she continued in relative obscurity.

Later, thanks to the Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer's advocacy, her name became better known in the West and, since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, her music has reached out to a global audience. Among the most famous of her works is the violin concerto Offertorium, which brought Gubaidulina to international attention.

Until 1992, she lived in Moscow. Since then, she has made her primary residence in Germany, outside Hamburg.

In addition to the REDCAT series, the young Venezuelan maestro Gustavo Dudamel will lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the U.S. premiere of Gubaidulina's Glorious Percussion on 21 and 22 May at 8:00 pm.

The Russian composer plans to attend rehearsal for the performances at REDCAT, where the instrumental ensembles consist of both professionals and  top students from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) . She will also give one session (she does not like the use of the term "masterclass") during which she will play and discuss the composition of one work.

Sunday, 15 May 2011 at 3:00 & 7:00 pm
Monday, 16 May 2011 at 8:30 pm
Tuesday, 17 May 17 2011 at 8:30 pm

Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT)
631 West 2nd Street
Los Angeles CA 90012
Tel: (1) 213 237 28 00

21 - 22 May 2011 at 8:00 pm 

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Brahms: Tragic Overture   
Gubaidulina: Glorious Percussion (U.S. premiere)      
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 

Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90012
Tel: (1) 323 850 20 00

Headline photo: Sofia Gubaidulina
© Japan Art Association, The Sankei Shimbun

Antoine du Rocher is Managing Editor of Culturekiosque.

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