Contempo, Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird salute Sofia Gubaidulina | Classical preview
Three ace Chicago ensembles toast a Russian composer who finds God in the numbers.
John Adams isn’t the only living composer being honored in town this week. The University of Chicago’s new-music collective, Contempo, is teaming with the formidable Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird to give props to one of Russia’s most esteemed contemporary composers, Sofia Gubaidulina. The Kazan Conservatory grad crafts wildly expressive, intense soundscapes. Driven by a fascination with percussion, Gubaidulina’s music has a tendency to dig deep into the psyche.
Contempo’s all-Gubaidulina program offers a balanced view of the 80-year-old’s career and includes two of her most significant chamber music works from the ’80s and ’90s, the melancholy Garden of Joy and Sorrow and In Croce. The evening closes with the monumental 1983 cantata Perception, which reflects her interest in mathematical principles of proportion. The piece employs numerology, formulas, the Fibonacci series and the Golden Ratio.
Yet under all the brainy precision of Gubaidulina, a Russian Orthodox, lies a strong spiritual current. She has said: “Art is an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.” She is finding God in the numbers.