The 2002 Polar Music Prize is awarded to Sofia Gubaidulina, whose intensely expressive and deeply personal musical idiom has the ability to speak to an ever-growing audience of listeners all over the world.
Childhood and education
Sofia Gubaidulina was born on October 24, 1931 in Chistopol in what was then the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, a part of the Russian SFSR and the Soviet Union. After instruction in piano and composition at the Kazan Conservatory, she went on to study composition at the Moscow Conservatory first under the guidance of Nikolai Peiko, and later under Vissarion Shebalin.
An uncompromising vision
Gubaidulina’s uncompromising dedication to her artistic vision did not always cohere with the rigid guidelines that defined the Soviet musical establishment, but her music was nonetheless championed in Russia by a number of devoted performers, including Vladimir Tonkha, Friedrich Lips, Mark Pekarsky, and Valery Popov.
And with the help and determined advocacy of Gidon Kremer, to whom Gubaidulina’s masterful violin concerto Offertorium was dedicated, the composer gained international attention in the early 1980s.
Mixing influences and experimenting
Gubaidulina is the author of symphonic and choral works, two cello concerti, a viola concerto, four string quartets, a string trio, works for percussion ensemble, and many works for nonstandard instruments and distinctive combinations of instruments.
Gubaidulina’s compositional interests have been stimulated by the tactile exploration and improvisation with rare Russian, Caucasian, and Asian folk and ritual instruments collected by the “Astraea” ensemble, of which she was a co-founder, by the rapid absorption and personalization of contemporary Western musical techniques, a characteristic, too, of other Soviet composers of the post-Stalin generation including Edison Denisov and Alfred Schnittke.
“I am that place where east and west meet”
Her scores frequently explore unconventional techniques of sound production. Gubaidulina’s music is marked by the use of unusual instrumental combinations. Seven Words was composed for the chromatic button accordion bayan, violoncello and strings; Et exspecto (1986), a sonata in five movements, Silenzio (1992) for bayan, violin and violoncello.
Gubaidulina is a deeply devout Christian and has always striven for the spiritual dimension in her music – a dimension revealed through mysticism and Christian symbolism by a deep-rooted belief in the mystical properties of music. Re-ligio symbolizes “the re-tying of a bond and restoring the legato of life” she says. The cross, and crossing then become logical symbols in her composition, in the crossings of artistic expressions, of instruments and of sound vs. silence.
The passion of St John
A major triumph of the recent past was the premiere in 2002 of the monumental two-part cycle, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ according to St. John, commissioned respectively by the International Bachakademie Stuttgart and the Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg.