1. The Polar Music Prize Ceremony
2. Childhood and education
3. An uncompromising vision
4. Mixing and experimenting
5. Re-ligio
6. The passion of St John
2002 Laureate


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.


Gubaidulina on stage with 2002's other Laureate Miriam Makeba at the prize ceremony

Stockholm, May 2002

The 11th Polar Music Prize Ceremony was held at Berwaldhallen, Stockholm in the May of 2002. The evening continued with a banquet in Vinterträdgården at Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel.

HM King Carl XVI Gustaf presented the Prize to the two Laureates Sofia Gubaidulina and Miriam Makeba.

The citation for Sofia Gubaidulina was read by Swedish composer and The Royal Swedish Academy of Music member Karin Rehnqvist, and the citation for Miriam Makeba was read by South African social rights activist and bishop Desmond Tutu.

Special arrangements of the Laureates’ music was performed by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and an amazing line up of international and Swedish artists honoured the Laureates by performing their music both at the ceremony and banquet.

The event was broadcast live on Swedish national television (TV4).

Gubaidulina with the Polar Music Prize Diploma

Citation for Sofia Gubaidulina read by Karin Rehnqvist.

Sofia Gubaidulina receiving the prize from HM King Carl XVI Gustaf.

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.

Nikolai Peiko: "Symphony No. 4"

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.

Sofia Gubaidulina in 1981 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Sofia Gubaidulina: Offertorium

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.

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.

Edison Denisov (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Alfred Schnittke (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Astraea Improvisation

I am that place where east and west meet

Sofia Gubaidulina


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.

Anne-Sophie Mutter performing Gubaidulina: "In tempus praesens (fragmento de la cadencia)"

The Resurrection part, initially planned as the ending, already influenced the composition of the entire Passion; this formed the basis of the structure, which is determined to a large extent by the succession of Gospel and Revelation texts. While working on the "Passion" I had to separate thoughts of the Resurrection from the actual "Passion.

Sofia Gubaidulina's Seven Words performed in Eurythmy.

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.

Vocal soloists and choir of the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir as well as the North German Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Valery Gergiev.

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra: "Johannes-Ostern" by Sofia Gubaidulina

Content of biography is presented here as it was published in 2012.

All pictures from the ceremony and the banquet by © Polar Music Prize.

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