5 March 2016

Young composers in the Gothic Hall.

Last night I was involved in a concert of young composers from various walks of life recent graduates, masters, and bachelors students. The performance took place in the magical Gothic Hall in the Vilnius Art Academy. The concert was overflowing with people, to the point that often I was just outside listening to the pieces being performed.

The first piece was by Jurgis Jarasius. His work Acchor'deo was a reconstruction of a work by the same name. The original was composed for strings and electronics, the version we heard last night was purely electronic. The work focused on a sustained sounds which slowly circled itself. The work was nice and still and quite colourful. Nothing ground breaking but just a nice piece. My only query is why the string parts were only recreated with virtual instruments? With the infinite opportunities with electronics could the string lines be redo with whole new timbres we have never heard before? Just a question really. I'll be curious to compare to the original when I finally get a chance to listen to Zoom in 11. I recommend you have a look at Jurgis's Soundcloud to make your own discoveries about him.

Following this was Andrius Siurys. A composer who I have been able to watch grow and change for the past 2 years. The work last night Atspirties Taskas was for violin and piano, and ultimately a wonderful leap in Siurys's craft. The work was full of energy and violence, and Diemante Merkeviciute handled it all with power and grace. The focus on motivic development showed a greater skill in his construction, but I feel the harmonic potential was not quite tapped into fully. The violent chords were strong, but the still moments felt disconnected, the previous harmonies if used skillfully could have been the way to hold it all together. If he addresses harmony a bit more, mostly finding purpose in the choice of harmony, Andrius has a growing potential to become very potent. For those curious, check other recordings of him here on Soundcloud.

The third piece in the concert I had the pleasure of knowing extremely well because I was conducting it. Which adds the most curious twist I have had to deal with when writing any sort of review. Karolina Kapustaite's work Matrikacakra, draws on the imagery and philosophical stance of Chakras; namely certain areas of the body have a specific form of resonance and energy which is linked to all other sorts of resonances and energies throughout the universe. In Tibetan and Tantric Buddhism this is quite a fascinating topic, but many new age people have misappropriated it sadly. Anyways back to the piece. Matrikacakra was composed for a mixed quintet of flute, clarinet, violin, viola, and cello. In its seven minutes the work shimmers and glistens. The sense of timing is wonderful, never rushed, new sounds drift in adding or taking away from the present texture. The piece is extremely strong, Karolina Kapustaite has a bright future ahead of her if she keeps producing wonderful works of this strength. The players in the ensemble were extremely solid and really brought the piece to life. And noone wants to hear about my conducting. I strongly recommend everyone to listen to Karolina's other works here.

The penultimate piece before the break was a string quartet by Marius Civilis. The work 
-mona- was very straight forward, the quartet moved as one, very close to one another, but not quite together in a collection of quite dissonant waves. The shape of the work was fine, if a bit laboured due to its predictability. The harmonic language was dull and tedious. The circling lines were a bit like Bartok's Music for String Percussion and Celeste and if my ear is correct its climax was almost identical. Sounding like Bartok can be great, but sadly in this piece it sounded more like Bartok was hammered on absinthe. The microtonal harmonies were unnecessary, or at least made little to no sense in the work. Its almost like he wanted to make sure he sounded 'modern'. Now don't get me wrong, works that treat the string quartet as one mass moving together can be extremely powerful look at Scelsi and Radulescu's fourth quartet, as well as sans pause by Rytis Mazulis. But they succeeded due to skillful craft. Once you take away the fact that the piece wasn't original what does it have left to stand on? I sadly couldn't find Marius Civilis on soundcloud, I would have given a link so you can make up your own mind on it all.

The final piece in the first half was a piano work by Kristupas Bubnelis called Plaktukai be fortepijono. The work was full of character and charm, the flowing lines of the piano were a lovely break from the previous piece. The piece at times I found mildly reminiscent of Georgs Pelecis's Concerto Bianco. The use of Balakauskas's trademark Dodekatonality was very heavy, even at times I found it to be a tad pastiche when suddenly from the free flowing lines to 'jazzy' chords. For such a young student is craft is very strong, I feel he just needs to step out into something more Bubnelis and less Balakauskas. I think if he came across composers like Peter Schat, Per Norgard, or Hans Abrahamsen would help broaden him and push into something very strong. Have a listen to his works here.

After the break was the work Bizonai by Monika Sokaite. The work opened with a simple circling of harmonies in the piano which served as a backdrop to the vocal melody. The team of Vaidrius Smilinskas and Paulius Pancekauskas was beyond remarkable. A beautiful voice like melted butter in the fluffiest baked potato, and a piano support which was strong and supportive allowing the singer to be brilliant. I was in awe. But the awe kind of ended with the quality of the performance, because the work did nothing and said nothing. Ultimately it was a blank sheet of paper which allowed the performers to craft it into something worth listening to. This song by no means compares to works like Erlkonig or  Die Doppelganger. Simplicity can be really profound just look at Howard Skempton or Arvo Part. But simplicity needs purpose and intent otherwise it is just naive or bland. This being said do have a listen to her music on Soundcloud, I am by no mean gospel.

Following this came a real highlight for me. Pradzioje Taskas - Pabaigoje Pradzia by Julis Aglinskas blew me away. The opening chord caught me like a rabbit in headlights. The stillness was beautiful and never let me go. It is obvious composers like Feldman are an influence, but it was by no means a pale imitation of him. The static chords and the chill of the harmonics on the piano just mesmerised. I really hope I get to hear this piece again! I definitely recommend you all see his recordings on Soundcloud.

The penultimate work of the whole concert was a charismatic little flute miniature by Vilte Zakeviciute. The piece Siaures vejo gusis was well crafted and full of character. A young student can take pride in the piece. I will be curious to see how she develops as a composer, there is something there.

The final piece, Isochronous by Dominykas Digimas was strong. The space was reminiscent of Georg Fredrich Haas's In Vain, waiting in the dark before things moved. The visual display was very hypnotic and Dominykas really made sure his music fitted the character of the visual elements. The sparse electronics were hypnotic and the saxophones were magical and full of evocative colours. The only issue I found was piece depended too much on the visual element. If we take opera, Mozart et al were lead by the visual and dramatic elements but the works are still well crafted. Cross-collaborations cannot transcend music, so the music needs to be as skillfully crafted as a 'traditional' concert piece. This being said, with a strong craft and the same kind of nuance and subtlety of composers like Eliane Radigue, Dominykas could be extremely profound. He just needs that extra push. I recommend people check him out on Soundcloud.

Until next time!

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