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If you look at the listings of the major orchestras in America you will see two things in common; very few of them are programming major pieces by women composers, and almost none have a woman on the podium. Despite the abundance of wonderful compositions by women, the world of classical music has been, for centuries, a man’s world.

Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina, composer

Sofia Gubaidulina.jpg

Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina (b. 1931) was born in Chistopol during Stalin’s reign and graduated from the Kazan Conservatory in 1954, one year after Khrushchev assumed power. In 1959, partway through her continued studies of composition and piano at the Moscow Conservatory, she met Dmitri Shostakovich and played for him the symphony she had recently written as her final examination. Empathizing with the challenges posed by subverting the strict parameters of the Soviet-approved realism style, Shostakovich praised the young composer’s work and told her to “continue along your mistaken path.”

In 1979, the Union of Soviet Composers blacklisted her as one of the Khrennikov Seven for writing “noisy mud instead of musical innovation, unconnected with real life.” However, Gubaidulina took the denunciation in stride, enduring the poverty that arose from the subsequent lack of paying commissions in order to take advantage of the creative liberty it afforded her.

Gubaidulina’s Russian Orthodox faith pervades her work. The composer often employs unconventional techniques alongside these spiritual themes to bolster the restoration of connections she seeks. Many of these tendencies were inspired by experimentation in the mid-1970s with Astreia, her improvisatory folk ensemble.

(www.yellowbarn.org)