24 October 2015

GAIDA Festival: Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra

After last week's visit of the Californian Santa Claus like figure (Terry Riley), GAIDA Festival has now gotten into full swing. Last night's concert was a concert of four extremely different works, by four wildly different composers. The four composers were Marius Baranauskas, Onute Narbutaite, James Dillon, and Francesco Filidei. James Dillon needs little introduction, a vibrant composer with lots of grit. This comes together in quite solid ways in his Andromeda for piano and orchestra. The orchestra tackled it strongly, but due to the length of the concert and the acoustic dissipating the clarity of minute piano gestures  the piece did feel like it was lagging.

Francesco Filidei was a wonderful bright breath of fresh air, not just in the context of the concert, but also in the aether of contemporary music. The austerity combined with the audacity of the tonal pages in his Fiori di Fiori was just truly remarkable. GAIDA Festival chose wisely making him one of the focused composers of the festival. I won't go into more detail about Francesco as one he features in more concerts throughout the festival, but I also want to get back to talking about Baltic composers. But before I do that, I highly recommend everyone checks out Francesco Filidei's Website.

Recently in a previous post I discussed Onute Narbutaite's Kornetas and for those with good memories or the time to read the link, I sadly wasn't converted to the opera, despite my love of Narbuatite's work. Her piece in the concert kein gestern, kein morgen is a concert adaption of the aria by the same name from scene 15 in the second act. Concert adaptions of arias from the opera in theory is a very strong move, because musically the work is beautiful and well rounded, and I can imagine singers around the world would love to sink their teeth into the arias. Sadly this piece didn't entirely go to plan. The music was strong, performance was very good, even though at times the light tenor Tomas Pavilionas was drowned out by the thick orchestration. The flaw was simply this concert adaptation was too long. Being familiar with the opera I knew the significance of why the music was extended as long as it was; it was Cornet's final words before his death. Without the dramatic lead up to it, the effectiveness was ultimately lost. Which is a shame, because Narbutaite has so much more up her sleeve. Hopefully I can get back to being very positive about her new work soon.

The final piece was a work by Marius Baranauskas. He is quite a fascinating composer, a student of Janeliauskas, Marius has been highly focused on the interaction of words and music. This isn't in the traditional sense of words and music, and just writing lots of songs, but more about making an ensemble speak. In works like Talking (2002), the result is a beautiful richness and murmuring, almost like the sensation of chanting a mantra. So I was very excited to see this new work by Marius. The new work in question, Beatitudes, draws inspiration from the Sermon on the mount. As the composer points out in the programme note:

...The blessings refer to the harmonious, fulfilling, and significant humans existence and are very relevant nowadays as people are lacking a life of sense, love, and peace. 

Marius Baranauskas

His spiritual connection to the work at no point becomes sappy, overly sentimental, or pious. And the reiterations of gesture do evoke images and sensations of repeating a prayer. The thick layering of orchestral colour was rich like a good quality 85% dark chocolate, but for me it all felt to familiar. This is Marius at his most comfortable, which is a shame for me. I imagine there are still wonderful places Marius and his music can go, the potential and potency is huge. Sadly this piece simmered, but not in a way that it was boring or uninspiring, but more like after mastering a recipe for a gorgeous roast dinner you only eat this roast dinner for weeks; after a while you lose the initial beauty of the dish because of being overly familiar.

I would still highly recommend people listen to the video below of Marius Baranauskas's Talking. The work blew me away the first time I heard it, and for those who listen it would not surprise them to learn that it won the Takemitsu Prize in 2004.

The next concerts of GAIDA include performances by Ensemble 2E2M, Ensemble Repertorio Zero, Mise-en New York, CRASH Ensemble, and the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra.

What a fun time to be in Vilnius.

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