Gaziza Zhubanova: String Quartet No.1
Remembered as the first successful Kazakh female composer, Gaziza Zhubanova (1928-1993) knew from a young age that she wanted to study music. In 1945, Zhubanova was offered a place to study at the Gnessin State Musical College in Moscow, and then later she studied composition at the Moscow Conservatoire with Yuri Shaporin. Her catalogue of music is focused on smaller ensembles and the voice, with her String Quartet No.1 remaining one of her most recognised works.
Composed in 1952 when Zhubanova was only 23 years old, the First String Quartet is a great place to start when exploring Zhubanova’s music. Set into three movements, the First Quartet showcases Zhubanova’s attention to detail, her creative flair and her distinct handling of the string quartet set up.
Movement I – Allegro molto
Opening with a unison passage between the upper strings, the cello takes the solo melody line. The urgency in the tempo adds excitement to this opening section, which sets the quartet up with a recognisable tune. The solo violin takes over the melody and the rush of the tempo begins to seize up. A lyrical central section shows some development in the main theme and also Zhubanova’s influence of folk songs. The fluctuation between tempos creates excitement as you are never quite sure where Zhubanova will take the music next. The unison playing that challenges the intricate solo lines is impactful and creates power within the ensemble. The opening movement concludes with a nod to the opening theme before finishing quietly.
Movement II – Andante
The slow second movement once again opens with a solo by the cello. Accompaniment by pizzicato upper strings, the texture is quite unusual to begin with. The rich sound of the cello against the sparse accompanying strings creates a big gap in the sound. The intensity within the music grows, with the central section seeing the upper strings push their boundaries in terms of range. Warm interludes are soon struck out by bolder material and unison passages. The end of this movement sees the upper violin take the lead to finish the movement off poignantly.
Movement III – Allegro
The driving force of the finale is heard through the layering of voices right from the start. The constant feeling of movement aids to this effect, as Zhubanova creates a fizz of excitement between the ensemble. The angular principal melody is shared between the group to create a bouncing effect. The constant chug heard throughout adds to the atmosphere of the music as well as keeping the intensity very high. The unison passage near the end is climactic and shows Zhubanova’s awareness of the ensemble, even at age just 23. The quartet concludes dramatically, with the quartet uniting for the final four chords.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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