“Nurit Stark’s violin and viola playing is remarkable for its strength and commitment. I can’t imagine a surer guide through this repertoire.” International Record Review
Viktor Suslin (1942–2012) began his activity as a composer in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and in 1975 formed the improvisational ensemble Astrea together with fellow composers Sofia Gubaidulina and Vyacheslav Artyomov; an ensemble which would be of great importance to its members as well as for the Soviet avant-garde. Securing performances for his music in the Soviet Union proved difficult, however, and in 1981 Suslin emigrated to West Germany. Here, in the 1990s, he and Sofia Gubaidulina resurrected the Astrea ensemble, now with Suslin's bass-playing son Alexander as the third member. As a composer, Suslin used a wide variety of compositional methods, including dodecaphony, serial techniques and modality, but never with dogmatic consistency: he was also perfectly happy to use the simplest of elements as the basic material of a composition. He displayed a similarly undogmatic approach to form, always retaining a balance between classicism and innovation. In his work list, chamber music and solo works make up a large part, and for this recording the violinist Nurit Stark has assembled a group of fellow musicians to perform five such works written between 1979 and 2005, and displaying the variety of Suslin’s concerns as a composer. The programme closes with the première recording of Sofia Gubaidulina’s So sei es (‘So be it’), composed especially for this disc and subtitled 'in memoriam Viktor Suslin'. Like a secret marker recurring throughout the piece, we hear the composer’s beloved B-A-C-H motif and the ‘cross motif’ in the form of the theme of the Fugue in C sharp minor from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I. (This motif is also heard in Suslin’s Grenzübertritt for viola, cello and double bass.) With a duration of twenty minutes, So sei es moves from action to contemplation, from despair to transfiguration, and the chorale that crowns the work, with its shimmering harmonics, is like a farewell greeting to a dear friend.