Galina Ustvolskaya

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Galina Ustvolskaya

Galina Ivanovna Ustvolskaya, also Ustwolskaja or Oustvolskaia (Russian: Гали́на Ива́новна Уство́льская, 17 June 1919, Petrograd – 22 December 2006, St. Petersburg), was a Russian composer of classical music.

Early years[edit]

From 1937 to 1947 she studied at the college attached to the Leningrad Conservatory (later renamed the Rimsky Korsakov Conservatory). She subsequently became a postgraduate student and taught composition at the college. Her composition teacher Dmitri Shostakovich, said of her: I am convinced that the music of G. I. Ustvolskaya will achieve worldwide renown, to be valued by all who perceive truth in music to be of paramount importance.

On several occasions Shostakovich supported her in the Union of Soviet Composers against opposition from his colleagues. He sent some of his own as yet unfinished works to Ustvolskaya, attaching great value to her comments. Some of these pieces even contain quotations from his pupil’s compositions; for example, he employed the second theme of the Finale of her clarinet trio throughout the Fifth String Quartet and in the Michelangelo Suite (no. 9). The intimate spiritual and artistic relationship between the two composers has been compared to that of Schoenberg and Webern.

She was a pupil of Shostakovich from 1939 to 1947 but retained little influence of his style from the 1950s onwards. As a modernist, she had few public performances; until 1968 none of her works were performed other than patriotic pieces written for official consumption. Until the fall of the USSR, only the violin sonata of 1952 was played with any frequency, but since then her music has been increasingly often programmed in the west.

Style[edit]

Ustvolskaya developed her own very particular style, of which she said, "There is no link whatsoever between my music and that of any other composer, living or dead." Among its characteristics are: the use of repeated, homophonic blocks of sound, which prompted the Dutch critic Elmer Schönberger to call her "the lady with the hammer"; unusual combinations of instruments (such as eight double basses, piano and percussion in her Composition No. 2); considerable use of extreme dynamics (as in her Piano Sonata No. 6); employing groups of instruments in order to introduce tone clusters; and the use of piano or percussion to beat out regular unchanging rhythms (all of her acknowledged works use either piano or percussion, many use both).

The music of Galina Ustvolskaya is not 'avant-garde' in the commonly accepted sense of the term and for this reason was not openly censured in the USSR. However, she was accused of being unwilling to communicate and of ‘narrowness’ and ‘obstinacy’. It is only in the recent past that her critics have begun to realize that these supposed deficiencies are in fact the distinguishing qualities of her music. The composer Boris Tishchenko has aptly compared the ‘narrowness’ of her style with the concentrated light of a laser beam that is able to pierce through metal.

Galina Ustvolskaya’s works of the 1940s and 1950s sometimes sound as if they had been written today. Her specific idealism is informed by an almost fanatical determination; this should be construed not only as a typically Russian trait, but also – in terms of Dostoyevsky – as a 'St. Petersburgian' one. Shostakovich wrote to her. It is not you who are influenced by me; rather, it is I who am influenced by you. People quote Ustvolskaya; she does not quote them.

All of Ustvolskaya's works are large-scaled in intent, no matter how long they are or how many players are involved. Ustvolskaya's music is largely based on tension and density.

Religion[edit]

All the symphonies have parts for solo voices, the latter four having religious texts, while the compositions have religious subtitles. The spiritual aspect of the compositions and symphonies invite a superficial comparison with her contemporary Sofia Gubaidulina, although unlike the latter Ustvolskaya was not a practicing believer, and these works are far from professions of Christian faith. The texts are either conventional invocations or, in the case of the fifth symphony, the Lord's Prayer. As Frans Lemaire has written, "Most of the time, the words present themselves as a murmured complaint or an insistent supplication, as opposed to the cosmic indifference of the music".[1]

In literature[edit]

Galina Ustvolskaya's relationship with Shostakovich from her time as a student through the 1950s is characterized in William T Vollmann's historical fiction Europe Central.

Works[edit]

Her oeuvre is small, with only 21 pieces in her characteristic style (i.e. excluding the public, Soviet-style works).

  • Concerto for piano, string orchestra and timpani (1946)
  • Sonata for cello and piano (1946)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 (1947)
  • The Dream of Stepan Razin (Сон Степана Разина – Son Stepana Razina) Bylina for bass and symphony orchestra (Russian folk text, 1949)
  • Trio for clarinet, violin and piano (1949)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 (1949)
  • Octet for two oboes, four violins, timpani and piano (1950)
  • Sinfonietta (1951)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 (1952)
  • Violin Sonata (1952)
  • Twelve Preludes for piano (1953)
  • Symphony No. 1, for two boys' voices and orchestra (Text by G. Rodari, 1955)
  • Suite for orchestra (1955)
  • Piano Sonata No. 4 (1957)
  • Symphonic Poem No. 1 (1958)
  • Symphonic Poem No. 2 (1959)
  • Grand Duet for piano and cello (1959)
  • Duet for piano and violin (1964)
  • Composition No. 1 Dona Nobis Pacem, for piccolo, tuba and piano (1971)
  • Composition No. 2 Dies Irae, for eight double basses, piano and wooden cube (1973)
  • Composition No. 3 Benedictus, Qui Venit, for four flutes, four bassoons and piano (1975)
  • Symphony No. 2 - True and Eternal Bliss, for voice and small orchestra (1979)
  • Symphony No. 3 - Jesus Messiah, Save Us, for voice and small orchestra (1983)
  • Symphony No. 4 - Prayer, for voice, piano, trumpet and tam-tam (1985/7) (6 minutes long)
  • Piano Sonata No. 5 (1986)
  • Piano Sonata No. 6 (1988)
  • Symphony No. 5 - Amen, for voice, oboe, trumpet, tuba, violin and percussion (1989/90)

Her music is available from Hans Sikorski, Hamburg.

Discography[edit]

COMPOSITION NO. 1

– Zoon / Oostendorp / Malov RN (Radio Netherlands)
– Renggli / Le Clair / Schroeder HAT ART CD 6130
– Tokarev / Arbuszov / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7867
– Members of the Schönberg Ensemble / de Leeuw* PHILIPS 442 532-2
– Ritter / Hilgers / Hagen KOCH 31 170-2 H1

COMPOSITION NO. 2

– Propischin / Kolosov / Goryachev / Vulik / Kovulenko / Peresipkin / Sokolov / Nefedov / Javmertchik / Sandovskaya / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7867, MEGADISC MDC 7858
– Schönberg Ensemble / de Leeuw* PHILIPS 442 532-2

COMPOSITION NO. 3

– Amsterdam Wind Ensemble / Friesen RN (Radio Netherlands)GLOBE 6903
– Danilina / Osipova / Rodina / Tokarev / Makarov / Shevchuk / Sokolov / Krasnik / Sandovskaya / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7867
– Schönberg Ensemble / de Leeuw* PHILIPS 442 532-2
– Jones / Coffin / Keen / Stevenson / O’Neill / Antcliffe / Newman / McNaughton / Stephenson / Stephenson CONIFER 75605 51 194-2

CONCERTO FOR PIANO, STRING ORCHESTRA AND TIMPANI

– Lubimov / Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie / Schiff ERATO 0630 12 709-2
– Seribryakov / Chamber Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic / Malov. Musica Non Grata Series. MELODIYA BMG 74321 49 956-2

DUET FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO

– Beths / de Leeuw* HAT ART CD 6115
– Shustin / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7863
– Rissin / Rissin-Morenova SST 30211

GRAND DUET FOR VIOLONCELLO AND PIANO

– Stolpner / Malov ... (LP) MELODIA C10 23283 007, Musica Non Grata Series. MELODIYA BMG 74321 49 956-2
– Vassiliev / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7863
– Uitti / Malov RN (Radio Netherlands)
– Kooistra / Denyer* ETCETERA KTC 1170
– de Saram / Schroeder HAT ART CD 6130
– Beiser / Oldfather KOCH 37 301-2 H1
– Rostropovich / Lubimov EMI 572016-2 *Ustvolskaya’s preferred recording

OCTET FOR 2 OBOES, 4 VIOLINS, TIMPANI AND PIANO

– Kossoyan / Tchinakov / Stang / Liskovich / Dukor / Soakov / Snamenski / Karandashova (LP) MELODIA C10 0 715 152 Musica Non Grata Series. MELODIYA BMG 74321 49 956-2
– Neretin / Tosenko / Stang / Ritalchenko / Lukin / Tkachenko / Znamenskii / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7865
– Bohling / Tindale / Fletcher / Muszaros / Tombling /Iwabucchi / Cole / Stephenson* CONIFER 75605 51 194-2

PIANOSONATA

– Malov / Liss / Ural Philharmonic Orchestra (CD) MEGADISC MDC 7856 (2000)

SONATA FOR PIANO NO. 1

– Malov(LP) MELODIA C10 23 283 007, MEGADISC MDC 7876
– Denyer* CONIFER 75605 51 262-2
– Schroeder HEK HAT 6170
– Hinterhäuser COL LEGNO WWE 20019

SONATA FOR PIANO NO. 2

–Malov MEGADISC MDC 7876, MEGADISC MDC 7858
– Denyer CONIFER 75605 51 262-2
– Vedernikov* TEICHIKU TECC – 28170
– Schroeder HEK HAT 6170
– Hinterhäuser COL LEGNO WWE 20019

SONATA FOR PIANO NO. 3

– Malov MELODIA C10 0715 152 (LP), MEGADISC MDC 7876, Musica Non Grata Series. MELODIYA BMG 74321 49 956-2
– Denyer* CONIFER 75605 51 262-2
– Karlen ECM 449936-2
– Schroeder HEK HAT 6170
– Hinterhäuser COL LEGNO WWE 20019

SONATA FOR PIANO NO. 4

– Malov(LP) MELODIA C10 23283 007, MEGADISC MDC 7876
– Denyer* CONIFER 75605 51 262-2
– Varsi MEDIAPHON 72. 158
– Schroeder HEK HAT 6170
– Hinterhäuser COL LEGNO WWE 20019

SONATA FOR PIANO NO. 5 –: de Leeuw* HAT ART CD 6115

– Denyer ETCETERA KTC 1170, CONIFER 75605 51 262-2
– MalovMEGADISC MDC 7876, MEGADISC MDC 7858
– de Leeuw WD 02 (Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik)
– Karlen ECM 449 936-2
– Schroeder HEK HAT 6170
– Hinterhäuser COL LEGNO WWE 20019

SONATA FOR PIANO NO. 6

– MalovMEGADISC MDC 7876 MEGADISC MDC 8000
– Denyer* CONIFER 75605 51 262-2
– Mukaiyama BVHAAST CD 9406
– Arden KOCH 37 301-2 H1, KOCH 37 603-2 H1
– Schroeder HEK HAT 6170
– Hinterhäuser COL LEGNO WWE 20019

SONATA FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO

– Shustin / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7865
– Rissin / Rissin-Morenova SST 30211

SYMPHONY NO. 1

– Malov / Liss / Ural Philharmonic Orchestra (CD) MEGADISC MDC 7856 (2000)

SYMPHONY NO. 2 – TRUE AND ETERNAL BLISS

– The St. Petersburg Soloists / Malov / Liss MEGADISC MDC 7858

SYMPHONY NO. 3 – JESUS MESSIAH, SAVE US!

– The St. Petersburg Soloists / Malov / Liss MEGADISC MDC 7858
– Symphonieorchester des Bayerische n Rundfunks / Stenz / Sherstanoi MEGADISC MDC 7858

SYMPHONY NO. 4 – PRAYER

– van Vliet / Konink / Denyer / Meeuwsen ETCETERA KTC 1170, MEGADISC MDC 8000
– Marrs / Keemss / Miller / Sperber MEDIAPHON MED 72 115
– The St. Petersburg Soloists / Malov / Liss MEGADISC MDC 7858

SYMPHONY NO. 5 – AMEN

– Leiferkus / Fletcher / Bohling / Hultmark / Powell / Cole / Stephenson CONIFER 75605 51 194-2
– The St. Petersburg Soloists / Malov / Liss MEGADISC MDC 7858

TWELVE PRELUDES FOR PIANO

– Schroeder HAT ART CD 6130
– Malov MEGADISC MDC 7867
– Arden* KOCH 37 301-2 H1

TRIO FOR CLARINET, VIOLIN AND PIANO

– Beths / de Boer / de Leeuw* HAT ART CD 6115
– Keser / Anderson / Denyer* ETCETERA KTC 1170
– Shustin / Feodorov / Malov MEGADISC MDC 7865

Quotations[edit]

  • “It is difficult to talk about one’s own music... my ability to compose music unfortunately does not coincide with the ability to write about it. There is, by the way, a commonly held view which says that the two are mutually exclusive...”[this quote needs a citation]
  • “All who really love my music should refrain from theoretical analysis of it...”[this quote needs a citation]
  • “My works are not, it is true, religious in a liturgical sense, but they are infused with a religious spirit, and to my mind they are best suited to performance in a church, without scholarly introductions and analyses. In the concert hall, that is, in ‘secular’ surroundings, the music sounds different...”[this quote needs a citation]
  • “With regard to the ‘Festival of Music by Women Composers’ I should like to say the following: Can a distinction really be made between music written by men and music written by women? If we now have ‘Festivals of Music by Female Composers’, would it not be right to have ‘Festivals of Music by Male Composers’? I am of the opinion that such a division should not be allowed to persist. We should only play music that is genuine and strong. If we are honest about it, a performance in a concert by Women composers is a humiliation for the music. I hope very much that my comments will cause no offence – what I say comes from my innermost soul...”[this quote needs a citation]

References[edit]

  • Viktor Suslin: The music of Spiritual Independence: Galina Ustvolskaya in «Ex oriente...I» Ten Composers from the former USSR. Viktor Suslin, Dmitri Smirnov, Arvo Pärt, Yury Kasparov, Galina Ustvolskaya, Nikolai Sidelnikov, Elena Firsova Vladimir Martynov, Andrei Eshpai, Boris Chaikovsky. Edited by Valeria Tsenova (studia slavica musicologica, Bd. 25), Verlag Ernst Kuhn – Berlin. ISBN 3-928864-84-X pp. 207–266 (in English)
  • Lemaire, Frans. Notes to Symphonies 2,3,4 and 5. Megadisc MDC 7854.
  • Simon Bokman. Variations on the Theme Galina Ustvolskaya.Translated by Irina Behrendt. (studia slavica musicologica, Bd.40), Verlag Ernst Kuhn - Berlin,2007. ISBN 978-3-936637-11-3 (in English)
  • Rachel Jeremiah-Foulds: 'An Extraordinary Relationship and Acrimonious Split - Galina Ustvolskaya and Dmitri Shostakovich' in Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung, No. 23, April 2010.
  • Rachel Jeremiah-Foulds: 'Spiritual Independence or a Cultural Norm? Galina Ustvolskaya and the Znamenny Raspev' in Church, State and Nation in Orthodox Church Music, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Orthodox Church Music, University of Joensuu, Finland - 8-14 June 2009.
  • Shostakovich: 'Most Beautiful Compositions' in North Korea, no. 2, August, 1942.

External links[edit]