Sofia Gubaidulina was born in Chistopol in the Tatar Republic of the Soviet Union in 1931. 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. Until 1992, she lived in Moscow. Since then, she has made her primary residence in Germany, outside Hamburg.
Gubaidulina made her first visit to North America in 1987 as a guest of Louisville’s Sound Celebration. She has returned many times since as a featured composer of various festivals.
Spiritual music doesn’t always have to be quiet and slow. For Sofia Gubaidulina, raging brass and crashing percussion are just as appropriate for expressing her deeply held religious convictions. Gubaidulina’s work is contemporary yet she continually looks to the distant past for inspiration. Her music expresses timeless values using modern techniques, making her one of the most important and interesting religious composers working today.
Gubaidulina’s use of large percussion sections in her orchestral works creates immediacy through their tactile and visceral qualities. In her chamber music, finely wrought harmonic and instrumental colours offer a similar sense of engagement. And in her concertos, the soloist acts as guide. She never casts the soloist as an infallible hero, treating them instead as a kind of companion to the listener, a fellow explorer of the music’s mysteries.
Like an icon in the Russian Orthodox tradition, Gubaidulina treats each of her works as an embodiment of the divine, a link between the corporeal world and the spiritual. That conviction dictates every compositional choice, over-riding any thoughts of fashionability or prevailing compositional trends. “It does not
matter to me whether or not I am modern,” Gubaidulina says, “what is important is the inner truth of my music.”