The name of the composition derives from the bright sound of the antique cymbals that bring the coda of this piece to a close. But despite such an optimistic title, the overall sense of the composition is dramatic. The drama is caused by the conflict between the intrinsic character of instruments – brass instruments in particular – to produce the sounds of the natural overtone row and the necessity of adapting them to the sounds of 12-tone tempered tuning.
For some time I have experience this conflict as my own drama: the incompatibility, in principle, of these intrinsic qualities with real-life circumstances in which nature neutralized. Sooner or later, this pain had to be manifested in some composition.
The conflict in this piece arises between a theme consisting exclusively of sounds from the natural overtone row theme that uses the 12-tone tempered scale.
The duet of French horn and cello before the central expressive tutti sounds especially antagonistic: the horn and cello play one and the same melody in different tunings, the natural and tempered. Great dissonance.
The piece concludes with the removal of this dissonance – as if by tonic – in which the contrasts are resolved. The chromatic glissandi of the strings remove the fundamental conflict; these sounds are contained both in the natural overtone scale and in the tempered system.
The music gods must be smiling on the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Last night at Symphony Hall, the orchestra delivered its second world premiere [and Gubaidulina's] THE LIGHT is a clear winner. THE LIGHT is the latest from the 71-year old composer originally from the Republic of Tatarstan (formerly a part of the former Soviet Union) [and] is a powerful, doom-laden composition that both thrills and chills with its dark, edgy sound world that's draped with a surface - but never superficial - glamour.
The opening passages call to mind an uneasy dawn, with a semi-sinister calm broken by jarring violent gales of rushing strings and descending scale fragments from the brass. There are significant rhythmic elements throughout, but they take second place to the grand orchestral colors and offbeat juxtapositions of instrumental sound that are the work's heart.
The climax is a delicate yet ominous passage for solo horn and solo cello, in which the horn's tuning and that of the cello clash just enough to create a magnificently hair-raising passage that's simultaneously grating to the ear and magnificently absorbing. There's a lot of detail in the score [and] the overall effect of this music was profound.
T. J. Medrek, Boston Herald
Gubaidulina’s new work, a single span of 25 minutes, ….[requires] a vast orchestra, and her orchestral colors are extraordinary. Spacious, logical, repetitive, spare, communicative, describes this bleak — occasionally dancing — piece… Gubaidulina’s deep spirituality was profoundly conveyed.
Annette Morreau, The Indipendent (London)
The San Francisco Symphony's new composer residency program got off to an exciting start Wednesday night with the first local performance of The Light of the End, a potent and evocative orchestral essay by Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina.
Gubaidulina's soulful, dark-hued music...led with vigor and commitment by guest conductor Kurt Masur, was...a glorious performance, marked by clear dramatic shape and a distinctive rhythmic profile in even the most seemingly unmoored passages.
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle