Laura Mancini (wooden cube), Fabrizio Ottaviucci, Marino Formenti (pianos) & Rohan de Saram (cello)
Ludus Gravis Contrabass Ensemble, Stefano Scodanibbio
At the beginning of her career, Galina Ustvolskaya, today known as one of the greatest female composers of Russia, was regarded as an outsider in the Association of Composers of the former USSR. The fact that she mainly composed for the desk drawer, however, was not only due to the repressive ignorance surrounding her, but also due to creative psychological reasons: "My work routine is considerably different from that of other composers. I write when I get into a state of grace. Afterwards, the work is left to rest for a while, and when its time has come, I will release it. When its time doesn't come, I destroy it."
'Grand Duet' for cello and piano (1959) is one of the pieces created past politically enforced concessions – at that time without any prospect of a performance and a publishing house. This is why it could not be played until many years later. After a creative hiatus of several years, the first work created was the three-part series ‘Compositions’. To each of the three compositions, Ustvolskya added a subtitle from parts of the Latin Mass Liturgy: 'Composition No. 2' (1972/73) received the addition of ‘Dies irae’ – just one example of the affinity of her music to spirituality: "Although my works are not religious in the liturgical sense, they are filled with a religious spirit."
Ustvolskaya's six piano sonatas composed between the end of her studies with Shostakovich in 1947 and 1988 consist mainly of one-part sequences of tones or powerful clusters of a rather percussive character – like her 'Sonata No. 6'. However, the piano appears in Ustvolskaya's entire oeuvre and can be seen as the alter ego of her identity as a composer.
“[Ustvolskaya] was a reclusive figure whose mature music deals mostly in extremes...the Grand Duet for cello and piano (1959) is an example of oppositional chamber music, anti-conversational, as if the performers are individuals who talk at and over each other. And yet there’s something that makes it all utterly gripping.” The Irish Times, 6th January 2012 *****
“When Rohan de Saram joins [Formenti] for Ustvolskaya's Grand Duet, with its opening line clearly riffing off Shostakovich, it's the only thing thus far that sounds remotely like music as we know it; but as both men play with a physical commitment that transforms their insturments into tuned wooden resonating chambers, Ustvolskaya is kept unsullied and dangerous.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2012