31 October 2015

GAIDA Festival: Finale and a quick look back at the highlights.

Last night saw the conclusion of the GAIDA Festival, with a performance by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra. The concert featured Louis Andriessen's The Hague Hacking for two pianos and orchestra, two new works by Mykolas Natalevicius and Gediminas Gelgotas, and Ogni gesto d'amore by Francesco Filidei for cello and orchestra. The festival finished with Squarepusher, but the combination of running on little sleep, unpredictable buses, and hunger steered me away from it.

I have always had a soft spot for Louis Andriessen, and it was nice to see him featured in the festival. The Hague Hacking is a fun work, but doesn't have the same grit and oomph that you can find in his earlier works. It was nicely performed by the soloists Ruta Riktere and Zbignevas Ibelhauptas.

Mykolas Natalevicius is a composer who has been on the periphery of my viewing in Lithuania, so it was nice to have the chance to finally hear him. Karachay for orchestra and electronics depicts a lake in Chelbyabinsk, which due to the pollution from the Soviet era is the most polluted place in the world. This kind of dystopian imagery goes hand in hand with electronics and orchestra with all the twisted colours and sheer magnitude that can be achieved by an orchestra, let alone when combined with electronics. Sadly the piece didn't quite live up to this. The violent gestures in the brass and percussion were ultimately naive, I am a bit sceptical of composer's using brass only to depict violence anyways, but when the sheer potential of the instruments aren't exploited it feels even more childish. The electronics were either under used or didn't balance with the orchestra, and the harmonic dissonances are sounds we have heard since when Varese was learning to walk. The potential is there in Natalevicius, but he has a long way to go.

The next composer Gediminas Gelgotas has been a name I have heard uttered under peoples breath like characters in Harry Potter trying not to mention 'he who shall not be named'. I have a kind of soft spot for infamous characters, because some of the best composers throughout history were surrounded by a dash of infamy. The work by Gelgotas Mountains.Waters.(Freedom) upon reading the programme note left me in a bit of a critical mood:

...use of music material creates the posture of composition that reminds one of today and rethinks the concepts of repetition and minimalism... - Gelgotas.

This kind of claim coming from a composer always gives the impression that the author has a half baked view of the musical world around them. Especially when you think La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Bronius Kutavicius are considered minimalists but beyond repetition have little in common. But for the sake of being a well balanced critic, I forgot my predispositions and listened. Listening through the piece I was just bored by it. Simplicity when done well can be truly profound, look at Part, Howard Skempton, and Henryk Gorecki. But Gelgotas just had no impetus behind his music, beyond fifths being a mountain.

Francesco Filidei's music in the festival has been wonderful throughout and Ogni gesto d'amore was no exception. The wonderous cellist Francesco Dillon bought out all the musicality of every gesture, even the moment of tuning the lowest string down. The faint whistles and ripples of colour were hypnotic and the moments of clarity were truly touching. It has been a delight having so much of his music featured in the festival.

The GAIDA Festival has been a wonderful event this year, with such a wide variety of music featured. For me having Francesco Filidei as a featured composer was a stroke of genius from the organisers of the festival, from speaking to students who witnessed his works; Francesco has left his imprint on musical life here in Vilnius, it is only a matter of time till Lithuania produces composers of that ilk. This also highlights the importance of the festival, not only is it a great platform for Lithuanian composers, but has been a great door opener to the rest of the world. The wide selection of music, and avoiding a 'festival sound' is something many other festival should learn, it has given the festival its freshness and offers something to all listeners.

My other highlights have been witnessing the premieres of works by Ricardas Kabelis, Tomas Kutavicius, and Juste Janulyte. As well as performances of Vykintas Baltakas and Justina Repeckaite. If I were to pick a favourite concert it would be the Jauna Muzika concert featuring the works of Arvo Part and Juste Janulyte, it has still left me stunned. I definitely look forward to next year's festival, but for the mean time II need to catch up on sleep.

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