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Guest composers 2022-2023

Sofia Gubaidulina and Hans Abrahamsen

The guest composers for the 2022-2023 season at L’Auditori are Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina (1931) and Hans Abrahamsen (1952) from Denmark, musicians who, each in their own way, have challenged established approaches to composition.

Gubaidulina explains that something Shostakovich said to her made a deep impression on her. “Be yourself. [...] My wish for you is that you should continue on your own incorrect path.” Shostakovich’s influence can also be seen in the grotesque visit to the world of children in Musical Toys). For her generation (she began composing at sixty) being oneself was a risky decision: in the atheistic Soviet Union, with heavy censorship, especially strict in the 1970s, Gubaidulina worked tirelessly to find a language of her own, one that was very close to the spirituality of Catholicism, as is evident in The Lyre of Orpheus. Her unusual combination of timbres appears in some of her pieces from the very start of her career: she is not interested in exploring changes in sound patterns merely as an intellectual exercise, but as part of a connection with the inner world, with spontaneity. This can be seen in Music for flute, strings and percussion and Hour of the soul, in which the prominent sinister role of the percussion is blended with the music of the chang, an Uzbek instrument.

Initially trained as a horn player, Danish musician Hans Abrahamsen began composing in the 1970s. He soon renounced the style of the avant-garde composers of the time and became part of a trend known as the “New Simplicity”. His work will be showcased at L’Auditori in the first performance in this country of his Concerto for Horn (2019). In some of his compositions, such as Nacht und Trompeten, the brass section has an allegorical role, as if summoning different voices from the past. Abrahamsen is a prolific composer: he has worked for the Royal Danish Academy of Music since 1982, has rethought much of his own work and has orchestrated pieces by composers such as Bach and Schumann. Having such a highly productive background, his slow, thoughtful approach to composing seems somewhat strange. Nevertheless, his interest in the past appears to be an exercise in learning. As he himself points out: “Form and freedom: perhaps much of my music has been an attempt to bring the two worlds together”. His slow, careful approach has borne fruit in recent years. For some students of his work, the turning point came with Schnee (2008), which condenses what he learned in the years 1988 to 1998, when he stopped composing to study the work of Bach. This was followed by Let me tell you, inspired by the words of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Journeys into the past, as something not yet concluded, are also to be found in Gubaidulina’s work. In 2000 she was invited by the Internationale Bachakademie in Stuttgart to compose a piece as part of the Passion 2000 project, which led to her Johannes-Passion and, in 2002, to Johannes-Ostern. This was the inspiration for two of pieces in the programme: Reflections on the theme B-A-C-H, which has obvious links, and also Chaconne.

Our two guest composers are united in their refusal to fit in with the plan apparently laid out for them. Their “wrongness” has been to take a stand against the expectations of others.

Marina Hervás

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