I'm curious to know what people think of her. I don't really know very much, and so far have heard very little, though she is highly recommended by those interested in modern music, and especially those who are fond of Soviet/Russian music. The first symphony is praised, so I have provided the link below, and some biographical data.
Galina Ivanovna Ustvolskaya, also Ustwolskaja or Oustvolskaia (Russian: Гали́на Ива́новна Уство́льская
Galina Ustvolkskaya - Symphony No. 1
On several occasions Shostakovich supported her in the Union of Soviet Composers against opposition from his colleagues. He sent some of his own as yet unfinished works to Ustvolskaya, attaching great value to her comments. Some of these pieces even contain quotations from his pupil’s compositions; for example, he employed the second theme of the Finale of her clarinet trio throughout the Fifth String Quartet and in the Michelangelo Suite (no. 9). The intimate spiritual and artistic relationship between the two composers has been compared to that of Schoenberg and Webern.
She was a pupil of Shostakovich from 1939 to 1947 but retained little influence of his style from the 1950s onwards. As a modernist, she had few public performances; until 1968 none of her works were performed other than patriotic pieces written for official consumption. Until the fall of the USSR, only the violin sonata of 1952 was played with any frequency, but since then her music has been increasingly often programmed in the west.
Ustvolskaya developed her own very particular style, of which she said, "There is no link whatsoever between my music and that of any other composer, living or dead." Among its characteristics are: the use of repeated, homophonic blocks of sound, which prompted the Dutch critic Elmer Schönberger to call her "the lady with the hammer"; unusual combinations of instruments (such as eight double basses, piano and percussion in her Composition No. 2); considerable use of extreme dynamics (as in her Piano Sonata No. 6); employing groups of instruments in order to introduce tone clusters; and the use of piano or percussion to beat out regular unchanging rhythms (all of her acknowledged works use either piano or percussion, many use both).
I listened to several of Galina's pieces. This one (Symphonic Poem No. 1) impressed me very much:
I listened to what little of here music was available online years ago. I read that Galina Ustvolkskaya composed without measures. I also read that she composed music that was a rebellion against soviet brutality and spiritual oppression. Her Symphonic Poem No. 1 in some ways is a little different in that there seems to be some excitement and possible joyfulness part way through but then it seems drift into a reality check. It's also not as modern and minimalist as what I've heard from her. This was composed five years post Stalin so there seems to be some guarded hope.
I composed a short requiem (piano and violin) in honor of her back then although it's based more on Russian folk music. It is very slow and dark, to hopefully reflect the mourning of the millions of victims of that especially brutal period in Russian history.
Thanks Mariza, and Phillip,
I'm just learning about her, so I am pleased to hear anyone's reactions.
Thank you for the link, Mariza.
I agree with one of the comments on YouTube - low strings at the beginning and instrumentation at 06:29/8:53 reminds me of D. Shostakovich. I wish the brass was angrier there :)
Enjoyed music and quality of the recording.
Mariza Costa-Cabral said:
Thanks for your remarks, Slava.
Ustvolskaya's close connection with Shostakovich is one of the reasons I am interested in her. I appreciate your pointing out that particular passage.
I like it too, when the "brass is angrier."
If you read a little bit about Ustvoltskaya, you will know why whe would've hated what you just wrote!
It was a huge problem for her as a composer to eternally be viewed as Shostakovich's student. She ended up feeling so completely frustrated about this that she made radical statements about her music having NO relation to any other composer that ever lived (something like that I assume is said to eradicate the problem, since it's actually impossible to have no relation to previous composers) and she also made anti-Shostakovich statements.
According to several sources that I read, Shostakovich was strongly influenced by Ustvoltskaya rather than the other way around. He would send her unfinished pieces for her ideas, according to what I read.
I hope this won't be interpreted as gender bias on my part. I'm simply stating some of the things that I read online from multiple sources.
The "gender alert" red light I have set up in my computer came on, so I came to see what happened and whether it required my intervention, but it was just Fredrick.
I'll have to ask my husband to help me refine the red light's settings.
Fredrick zinos said:
Fredrick, I'm touched. Will you hand me your handkerchief?
Fredrick zinos said:
A gentleman without his accoutrement??
Fredrick zinos said:
"If you read a little bit about Ustvoltskaya, you will know why she would've hated what you just wrote!"
Yes, I understand that, and while any Russian (Soviet or post-Soviet) composer of that era might also hate such statements about influence, she would hate it more than most.
"It was a huge problem for her as a composer to eternally be viewed as Shostakovich's student. She ended up feeling so completely frustrated about this that she made radical statements about her music having NO relation to any other composer that ever lived (something like that I assume is said to eradicate the problem, since it's actually impossible to have no relation to previous composers) and she also made anti-Shostakovich statements."
I was somewhat aware of this, and I find it interesting, because the extent to which similar composers of the same era, who "studied with Shostakovich" (Weinberg, Tischenko, and Schnittke) were "influenced" by him will remain an important cultural and historical question. If she sought to sever herself from that influence, so much the better for her, I think.
"According to several sources that I read, Shostakovich was strongly influenced by Ustvoltskaya rather than the other way around. He would send her unfinished pieces for her ideas, according to what I read."
Yes. After a certain point, I find myself a bit disappointed in Shostakovich's own oeuvres. The fifteenth symphony for example, I find very inadequate for a composer of his stature. So the more he was influenced by her, probably the better. (Maybe there was something of here influence in the 14th symphony, which is far more interesting than the 15th, harmonically, and for many other reasons).
"I hope this won't be interpreted as gender bias on my part."
Not at all. I don't interpret it that way. It may be the case, in fact, that male composers should be banned from the academy for a time, or there should at least be a quota of 40% men and 60% women for a while (in music, as well as politics) to redress past historical wrongs. I don't have too much of a problem with that idea.
"I'm simply stating some of the things that I read online from multiple sources."
I've read a few similar things, though you probably have studied the issue more thoroughly than I have. The issue does merit more investigation.
We might also want to start a thread on Sofia Gubaidulina as well, while we are at it.
[ Софи́я Асгатовна Губайду́лина ]