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Galina Ustvolskaya, 1919-2006

The Russian composer Galina Ustvoskaya died yesterday. Alex Ross has the details and the (appropriately) terse, German notice from her publisher, Sikorski.

I don’t have time now to write much about Ustvolskaya’s music, but my encounter with it was one of the determining events of my own musical evolution, and I still can’t quite believe that I performed all six of her piano sonatas spaced out during an all-night new music marathon concert as an undergraduate. (By the time I got to the last of them, round about 4 AM, I was pretty spaced out myself.)

If you don’t have this disc, correct that about yourself. This is the music Shostakovich could have written but didn’t.

Update: WordPress is eating my links for breakfast. Go over to for more details, and the CD you are to buy is Frank Denyer’s recording of the complete piano sonatas on Conifer.(I haven’t heard Oleg Malov’s on Megadisc, a label that has also released several other discs of Ustvolskaya’s hieratic chamber music.)


Comment from Samuel Vriezen
Time: December 24, 2006, 7:17 am

A sad loss! Her work was a minor hype in the early nineties in Holland, when Reinbert de Leeuw was starting to champion her work and that of Gubaidulina. Gubaidulina has remained on the programs, Ustvolskaya – unjustly so – not. But a good CD was made by de Leeuw which I would recommend, in addition to seconding the Denyer disc, and I can also recommend the Barton Workshop disc.