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The powerful new orchestral work by Sofia Gubaidulina, The Wrath of God, achieved its belated premiere as a highlight at the Wien Modern festival in November.

The world premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s new orchestral work The Wrath of God (Der Zorn Gottes), published by Sikorski, made a powerful impression at the Wien Modern festival on 6 November. Originally planned to be unveiled at this year’s Salzburg Easter Festival, the performance was cancelled due to COVID restrictions and there was much anticipation for the delayed premiere in Vienna. The live-streamed concert also included Gubaidulina’s Viola Concerto and featured the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna under the baton of Oksana Lyniv, with the premiere demonstrating how the composer's creative powers remain undimmed as she approaches her 90th birthday in 2021.

Enthusiastic press reviews noted the work’s “rhythmically concise, soaring main theme” with an intense symphonic drive drawing parallels to Shostakovich, providing “a gestural motif, an elevation, which finally condenses contrapuntally into a multi-layered texture ...” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

The Wrath of God is mighty: it is as if Gubaidulina has let the trumpets of Jericho sound. Broad brass salvos are followed by such a deep song of rage that only a composer like Beethoven could have made your ears prick up like this.”
Wiener Zeitung

“Like magma bursting from the depths: sharp points twitch in unison with the bass, the heavy brass makes every long note swell threateningly. The jagged line, which soon builds up to a brazen tutti-like violence, recalls the beginnings of Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 8; one is reminded of the messianic emphasis of fear and terror in the face of the divine…”
Die Presse am Sonntag

“The Wrath of God was like a wave of brass piling up again and again, countered by adagio-like string passages. At times, the action culminates in slowly rising passages that form a whimpering song of pain. The arsenal of expression also contains percussive energies and dance-like interjections by the woodwinds and moments when horns (and sometimes violin) crave their short solo performances. Also essential is the combination of extremely high and very low instrumental registers until the work ends monumentally and dramatically.”
Der Standard

Gubaidulina’s The Wrath of God grew from thematic material heard in one of the movements of her recent major oratorio On Love and Hate. Dedicated to “the great Beethoven”, the new 18-minute work shows her acknowledging the titan of composers looking over her shoulder and their shared pursuit of a loftier dimension to life, in Gubaidulina’s case intimately connected to her Christian faith.

Future performances of The Wrath of God include its German premiere scheduled for 24 June with Andris Nelsons conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, reaching the midpoint of a two-season focus on Gubaidulina’s music. Planned spring performances by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra are being rescheduled due to the COVID pandemic. The composer’s 90th birthday is celebrated on 24 October 2021.

>  Further information on Work: The Wrath of God

Photo: Priska Ketterer

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