piccolo, tuba and piano

The sacred is explicitly manifest in Galina Ustvolskaya’s work through prayer, as reflected in Composition No. 1 — Dona nobis pacem… “The soul of orthodoxy is in the gift of prayer,” Vasily Rozanov once wrote. A prayer entirely imbued with a feeling of being powerless, limited. Symbolically, the motif flowing through Compositions No. 1 presents six notes corresponding to the silent inner pronunciation of Dona nobis pacem. Dona nobis pacem (“Grant us peace”) concludes the Mass: the litany of its first movement is based on the initial motif of the tuba, then disembodies through repetitions, contrapuntal superpositions, amplifications, reductions and compressions of the original theme. After the second movement, essentially entrusted to the tuba’s low C and to clusters at the piano, the third movement is very slow, interrupted by a short brusqueness, “espressivissimo”, briefly recalling the beginning of the work and presenting three harmonies on the piano, a tuba limited to low F# and a flute, trapped in the interval of a diminished fourth or major third, which defines the relationship between the extreme notes of the motif.