Concert

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Andris Nelsons, conductor
Shostakovich | Gubaidulina | Beethoven

“Must it be?” – “No, it does not have to be.” Alluding contrarily to a famous quotation from Beethoven, in “Der Zorn Gottes” (The Wrath of God), Sofia Gubaidulina has created a work that confronts the human capacity for violence with a humanism rooted in spirituality. Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig enable us to hear its German premiere along with pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven and Dmitri Shostakovich.

The composer in semi-profile

Sofia Gubaidulina at an exhibition in Berlin, 1986

© Jürgen Köchel, Sikorski Musikverlage

Work introduction 19:10

“In the deepest sense,” says Sofia Gubaidulina, “music serves God.” No surprise therefore that the titles of most of the works by this composer, who is profoundly influenced by spiritual concerns, awaken religious associations. This is also true of the orchestral piece “Der Zorn Gottes” (The Wrath of God) that was premiered during lockdown in 2020 in a “ghost concert” without an audience: music “between tears and goosebumps” (Die Presse). This powerfully cast tone poem begins with a mighty brass theme and discharges its tensions in three waves of intensification that are only periodically brightened with the sound of echoing bells and iridescent flurries of strings: “God is wrathful […]. We have burdened ourselves with guilt,” says the composer whose numerous awards include the Russian State Prize and the most richly-endowed arts prize in the world, the Japanese “Praemium Imperiale”. Easily recognisable in this fiery burst of sound is a quotation from Beethoven – more precisely: the characteristic question and answer motif from the String Quartet op. 135. Beethoven highlighted it himself with the words “Must it be? It must be!” which Gubaidulina has reinterpreted: “It does not have to be – this increasing hatred between people.” Gewandhauskapellmeister Andris Nelsons has been the first to record the “Der Zorn Gottes”: “It thrills me again and again how Sofia Gubaidulina combines intellect, spirituality and sensuality in her works. Her music gets right under your skin.” For his visit to Berlin together with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, he contrasts Gubaidulina’s music with Beethoven’s light-filled Seventh Symphony. Also on the programme: Rudolf Barshai’s chamber orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 – a work that has personal quotations and the composer’s monogram DSCH running through it, and which can be read as a commentary on the artist’s exposure to the power of the state: the work was written shortly after Shostakovich was forced to become a member of the Soviet Communist party, which the composer regarded as his greatest moral defeat.

Concert Programme

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 – 1975)
Chamber Symphony in C minor op. 110a
Barshai version of the String Quartet No. 8 (1960)

Sofia Gubaidulina (*1931)
Der Zorn Gottes
for orchestra (2019)
German Premiere

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Symphony No. 7 in A major op. 92 (1811/12)

A Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin event