29 August 2015

Vykintas Balatakas: Saxordionphonics

This week's installment brings us back to Lithuania. One because it is not long till I move into my new flat in Vilnius, but also because I do really enjoy this particular piece.

Vykintas Baltakas (1972*) is a highly driven composer and conductor, and his work with the Gaida Festival and the Lithuanian Ensemble Network (Lieutvos Ansambliu Tinklas) have helped bring new life to Lithuanian music and the way it is performed and viewed worldwide. Currently residing in Belgium Vykintas Baltakas's music is captivating and energetic. To quote his own biography:
'Vykintas Baltakas is a musical Scheherazade. His music keeps pulling you in and referencing itself, sometimes branching off and reinventing itself, and sometimes returning to where it started. He weaves musical stories that are linked with a delicate interconnected web'

This constant reinvention combined with an angst with his musical surroundings in Vilnius, probably made his move to Germany in 1993 quite so important. Studying with Wolfgang Rihm will have been worlds away from Baltakas's native Lithuania. As you will see in future blogs, many prominent Lithuanian composers leading up to the 1989 revolution were keen on exploring Lithuanian culture; either through drawing on ancient folk songs, folk art, or stories. Whereas Germany had 40 years of revolutionary ideas that had been constantly evolving since the end of the second world war. This extreme divide in musical landscapes allowed Vykintas to flourish. 
Now onto my personal favourite by Baltakas. His playful Saxordionphonics for soprano saxophone, accordion, and orchestra is a single movement work which hints at being a concerto by the way the soloists interact with each other and with the orchestra, but always manage to dodge it in such a way that you are always second guessing what the piece is going to do.

The opening stabs never quite reiterate themselves when you expect, always just a little after or just before you truly anticipate it. The entrance of the accordion begins with ricochets between accordion and the orchestra. The soprano saxophone enters and suddenly the dynamic of the piece changes but the moment passes quite quickly and you find yourself in a constant to and fro between motifs you have heard before and new ones.

This keeps the work energetic and ultimately quite cute and playful. The soloists in the recording perform this beautifully and with such gusto that you get the feeling that the piece is such a standard piece of the repertory; a sensation that happens rarely with contemporary recordings.

The work is not the most remarkable or definitive piece by Baltakas, but it is extremely lovable and a great introduction to his music. People who have fallen in love with this I'd recommend checking out pieces like 'Co(ro)na' or 'Pasaka' both are stunning piece which I will be mentioning in future installments.

Information have been gathered from:
Baltakas's official website: http://www.baltakas.net/biography/

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