Sonnengesang - Sofia Gubajdulina

(Canticle of the Sun) 

is piece is dedicated to the greatest cellist of the twentieth century, Mstislav Rostropovich, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. And, naturally, it is connected in its nature and character with his personality, which in my imagination is perpetually lit up by the sun, by sunlight, by sunny energy. The singular power and the depth of the sound of his cello spurred my imagination towards some kind of very important musical gesture, permitting me to risk employing for this work the text of the Canticle of the Sun by St Francis of Assisi. 

Of course, this was very audacious of me; but very important in order to reveal the sunny personality of the brilliant musician Mstislav Rostropovich. I knew that under no circumstances should this text be sung through. Under no circumstances should the expression of this canticle be intensified by music. In coming into contact with these holy texts, under no circumstances should the music be ultrarefined, ostentatiously complicated or exaggeratedly attracting attention. This is the glorification of the Creator and His Creation by a very humble, simple Christian friar. 

I tried therefore to make the choral part very restrained; even secretive; and to put all the expression in the hands of the cellist and percussionists. The choral participants are very often the ones who respond to their expression. For that reason, in the centre of the piece is the episode entitled Responsory. With his gestures (glissandi performed with his bow on the flexatone), the soloist evokes the response of the chorus. 

The form consists of four episodes:

1. Glorification of the Creator and His Creations – the Sun and the Moon

2. Glorification of the Creator, the Maker of the four elements: air, water, fire and earth

3. Glorification of life

4. Glorification of death

But the overall form is divided into two parts by the episode in which the cellist abandons his instrument; the motif of the overtone row (which is repeated several times in this piece) is played on the C string. Then the cellist retunes this string, gradually reaching the lowest possible pitch; at this pitch he reaches the very limit of his instrument’s possibilities, playing first near the bridge, then on top of the bridge (with a snare drum stick), behind the bridge, on the tailpiece—and finally he abandons his instrument altogether. Now he plays first on the bass drum (legato with a friction stick), and later on a flexatone with a double bass bow, evoking responses from the choral group with his glissandi. And only after this episode, the Responsory, does he return to his instrument in order to attain its very highest register in the next episode Glorification of death

Sofia Gubaidulina 

Saint Francis of Assisi Canticle of the Sun
Altissimo onnipotente bon Signore,
tue so le laude la gloria l’honore
et onne benedictione.
Ad te solo, Altissimo, se konfano
et nullo homo ene digno
te mentovare.

Laudato si, mi Signore, cun tucte le tue creature,
spetialmente messer lo frate sole,
lo qual è iorno et allumini noi per lui;
et ello è bello e radiante
cun grande splendore;
de te, Altissimo, porta significatione.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora luna e le stelle;
in celo l’ài formate clarite
et pretiose et belle.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate vento
et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo,
per lo quale a le tue creature dai sustentamento.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora acqua,
la quale è molto utile et humile
et pretiosa et casta.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate foco,
per lo quale enn’allumini la nocte;
et ello è bello et iocundo et robustoso et forte.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre terra,
la quale ne sustenta et governa,
et produce diversi fructi,
con coloriti ori et herba.

Laudato si, mi Signore,
per quelli ke perdonano per lo tuo amore,
et sostengo in rmitate et tribulatione.
Beati quelli ke ‘l sosterrerano in pace,
ka da te, Altissimo, sirano incoronati.

Domine miserere. Amen.

Laudato si, mi Signore,
per sora nostra morte corporale,
da la quale nullo homo vivente po skappare.
Guai a quelli ke morranno ne le peccata mortali;
beati quelli ke troverà
ne le tue sanctissime voluntati,
ka la morte secunda nol farrà male.

Laudate et benedicete mi Signore,
et rengretiate et serviateli
cun grande humilitate.

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored owers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.