Dedicated to the Sibelius Quartet; commissioned by Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. Available in the USA, Canada and Mexico only

  • 2 vn, va, vc
  • 9 min

Programme Note

Composer note:

My second string quartet was written in 1987 to a commission from the Sibelius Quartet for the festival at Kushmo in Finland.

This was the first time in my life I set myself the task of realizing a certain musical problem of great importance to me personally, not in a large scale form but in a small scale one.

In the course of many years my attention has been persistently drawn to an idea I call ‘Musical Symbolism’. This means that what appears as a symbol (i.e. a knitting together of things of different significance) is not some sound or other, nor yet a conglomeration of sounds, but the separate constituent elements of a musical instrument or the properties of those elements. Specifically in this particular context, the discourse springs from the difference between the means of extracting the normal sound from stringed instruments and the means by which harmonics can be made to sound.

It is possible to consider the passage across this difference as a purely mundane acoustical phenomenon and to make no particular issue out of it. But it is just as possible to experience this phenomenon as a vital and essential transition from one state to another. And this is a highly specific aesthetic experience, the experience of a symbol. It is just such an experience which distinguishes between everyday time and true essential time, which distinguishes between existence and essence.

And this modulation, this transition between the two, happens not through ‘depiction’ nor through ‘expression’ but through transformation or transfiguration by means of an instrumental symbol. For this transition actually happens on the very instrument. In its acoustic self.

--Sofia Gubaidulina



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