Friedrich Kleinhapl has left a trail of impressed critics on his recent Beethoven-sonata tour on the East Coast. Writing in the New York Times, Steve Smith attested that "Purists would have been scandalized. But Mr. Kleinhapl and Mr. Woyke supported their idiosyncratic vision of Beethoven with unimpeachable virtuosity and a thrilling unanimity of spirit." And the usually measured Celia Porter wrote in the Washington Post that Woyke and Kleinhapl created "scenes of exciting havoc, their performance was driven and unorthodox, leading the audience to the brink of the music's emotional abyss." Chicago Sun-Times critic Andrew Patner, responding to a recital broadcast, simply exclaimed "Wow! What an exceptional player". His recording of Beethoven's first three cello sonatas elicited enthusiastic responses and was chosen as one of the Top Ten new releases of 2009 by Washington's public radio station, Classical WETA 90.9.
When Kleinhapl was a member of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, Claudio Abbado encouraged him to explore modern works "to discover new textures, more complex sounds, more difficult rhythmical structures". Since then he has premiered several new concertos and has performed works like Knut Nystedt's "Stabat Mater", Friedrich Gulda's wild Cello Concerto, and Sofia Gubaidulina's "Canticle of the Sun" to great acclaim. Kleinhapl will be making his Town Hall debut this December with performances of Zemlinksy's Three Pieces for Cello and Piano, as well as Schnittke, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven: whose remaining Sonatas and Variations he and Woyke will record for release in October of 2010.
Sofia Gubaidulina is one of the foremost, and most often performed, composers of our time.
She was born in 1931 in Christopol (the Tartarstan Republic, then of the Soviet Union, now part of the Russian Federation). She first studied composition at the Conservatory in the Tartarstan capital Kazan and upon graduation in 1954 went on to study in Moscow. Her early interest in religious expression in music, coupled with what was deemed a 'modernistic' idiom, got her work banned from performance in the Soviet Union. She says about herself: "I understand 'religion' in the literal meaning of the word, as 're-ligio', which is to say: the restoration of connections, the restoration of the legato to life. There is no more serious task for music than this."
Encouragement to continue in her own, inimitable style came from colleagues like Dmitry Shostakovich and Russian performers in the West: notably Mstislav Rostropovich and Gidon Kremer: helped to get her performed. In 1992 she emigrated to Germany where she resides near Hamburg.
When the International Bach Academy of Stuttgart commissioned four new Passions in 2000: one for each Gospel: to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Bach's death and the Christian bi-millennium, they went to the most important composers from four different cultural realms: Wolfgang Rihm, the doyen among German composers, Tan Dun from China, Argentinian Osvaldo Golijov, and Ms. Gubaidulina. Simplicity, sincerity, an otherworldly accessibility, and the exploration of the mystical qualities of music mark her body of work. If composers like Tan Dun and Golijov have gone on to make a bigger splash in the classical music scene, it's because Gubaidulina is an altogether quieter character, lacking the populist streak of her colleagues. The two composers Gubaidulina most admires are Johann Sebastian Bach and Anton Webern.
Her music has been commissioned and premiered by artists like Yuri Bashmet, Sir Simon Rattle, Anne Sophie Mutter, the Kronos Quartet, the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Library of Congress, and many more. Sofia Gubaidulina is a recipient of the Great Distinguished Service Cross of Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her discography continues to grow steadily and spreads across labels like Deutsche Grammophon, Chandos, Philips, Sony, BIS, H‹nssler, and Berlin Classics.
"Canticle of the Sun": Based on St. Francis of Assisi's prayer of the same name ("Laudes Creaturarum"), Gubaidulina created in "Canticle of the Sun" something that is both a cello concerto and a choral work. Involving percussion, celesta, chorus, and the cello soloist, it does not merely underline the words of St. Francis with music, but rather uses the chorus to create a general atmosphere above which the cellist can express himself to the fullest. This includes using his cello as a percussion instrument, playing the bass drum, and bowing the flexatone. On that note: Friedrich Kleinhapl plays the 1743 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini "Ex von Zweygberg", a loan from the Austrian National Bank's instrument collection and one of the most prized cellos there are. It is particularly appropriate that the performance should be held in the Minoritenkirche which was originally: in 1224: dedicated to the followers of Francis of Assisi.
OsterKlang will go through April 4th.