11 October 2015

Anatolijus Senderovas: 70th Birthday Bonanza

As I mentioned in the last post, things are starting to pick up in Vilnius and a large amount of concerts will be happening in a short space of time. Last night was a concert performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Modestas Pitrenas. The concert was to celebrate the Lithuanian composer Anatolijus Sendervoas who turned 70 this year. The occasion was a very big one with Senderovas receiving a present from the president and was supported by many national or international foundations and institutions including the Lithuanian composers union and the Good Will Foundation.

Senderovas was born in 1945 to a Jewish family, which considering the seismic shifts and torturous events that preceded and followed his birth his existence is rather miraculous. He studied in what is now the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre under the guidance of Eduardas Balsys. And his music is definitively Baltic. The openness, the clarity, the moments of austere beauty, and the ability to unleash powerful violence makes his music the template that many composers following him or his contemporaries aimed to achieve.

The concert included four works, his concerto in Do (2002) for cello and orchestra, ...ad Astra (2007) for accordion and orchestra, Paratum cor meum (1995) for cello, four keyboards played by one pianist, choir, and large orchestra, and a new work Sokis (dances)(2015). Following many speeches and many presents and bouquets being handed to Senderovas, the concert opened with the concerto in Do. The soloist was David Geringas, who performed the premiere of the work back in 2002. The piece opened in a still dark calm, allowing the cellist to really open up this quasi-free quasi-cadenza showing off a wide virtuosity and beauty. Gradually ripples spread across the orchestra building to rich sounds which allows managed to make the soloist more powerful. The constant building lead to quite a powerful climax before coming back to the same dark calm that opened the concerto.

The next piece ...ad Astra was the work I was most familiar with before the concert, due mostly to the fact when I was writing my own concerto for accordion, Martynas Levickis kept referring me to his powerful piece. Hearing the two concerto side by side was fascinating, in the sense that one it seemed Senderovas had built quite a wonderful formula for producing concerti using a similar architecture but still make the work sound wildly different and unique. Part of it hangs in the instrumentation, whereas the concerto in Do is extremely lyrical this accordion concerto is violent and dense. Thick clusters spread from the soloist to the orchestra and the climax of the work is quite a powerful roar from the orchestra, it was especially intense as I somehow ended up sat in the front row. The whole concerti was played astounding well by the soloist Geir Draugsvoll.

After the interval and a lot of stage change, the concert resumed with Paratum cor meum. A monumental work, due to its size and forces. The Lithuanian choir Jauna Muzika supported the orchestra in this piece. Indre Baikstyte had the task of jumping across the four keyboards, which included piano, harpsichord, electric organ, and celeste. David Geringas took centre stage for the solo cello part. The text of the work focuses on quotes from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes. The quotations focus mostly yearning for release and the work reflects this through very beautiful solemn stillness. The interaction of soloist and choir with the orchestra is very similar to Flos Campi by Vaughan-Williams. Where instead of a solo singer with an aria, the soloist reflects the mood and beauty of the words. The moments of violence and chaos seems to detract from the work as it made the work feel a bit stop start but this being said, the violence was a powerful thing to witness.

The final work was a world premiere by Senderovas written especially for the concert. Sokis (dances) in short is, if you can imagine the result of Karlheinz Stockhausen writing authentic Klezmer music. The piece started with a bit of confusion when the compere Darius Uzkuraitis said: There might be a soloist, we don't really know. And a stage manager appeared with music before disappearing. The piece actually opened with clarinets wailing away at the Jewish folk tune, and it bounces along getting slowly more insane, before a sudden break into chaos. This chaos is suddenly halted by conductor Modestas Pitrenas, who then asked: Where is our soloist? The orchestra then shouted loudly for Geringas who walked out proudly before joining in on the fun. The piece carries on then descends again into chaos, Pitrenas asked again: Where is our soloist? The orchestra promptly shouted for Draugsvoll who also appeared proudly and added the occasion. It carried on dancing away, going like a bull through a china shop. When chaos ensued again Pitrenas screamed: What is this noise, what is going on? This lead to a small competitive cadenzas from Draugsvoll, Baikstyte, and Geringas, each zanier than the last. Then like a muscle man on steroids the dances charged on before coming to a loud end.

The concert was a fun experience, and I sincerely hope Sokis got recorded, because of the wild and choatic forces it would be hard to make many future performances. Overall it was a wonderful mark and nod to the birthday boy and was performed beautifully by the orchestra and conducotr Modestas Pitrenas. A combination I hope to see many more times during my time here in Vilnius.  

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