25 May 2016

Druskomanija 2016: Day Four

This evening saw the fourth day of Druskomanija, and sadly the last day I will be writing about the festival (I will explain all in due course). Tonight was the high point of the whole festival with Bachelor students having their long awaited string orchestra pieces premiered by Donatas Katkus and his St. Christopher's Orchestra.The National Art Gallery was the perfect space for such an occassion, the light shone in from the riverbank and the open space made the concert welcoming, comforting and best of all resonant. 

The first work to be performed was Litosferos by Karolina Kapustaite, those of you who have read this blog before know I have been significantly impressed by her work in the past. Litosferos was no exception. The work shuffled in from silence. The space was empty, slowly filling with sound. Sensations of harmonies began to make their presence known. The sudden glimmer and flashes were as beautiful and intense as staring at the sun. Despite the intensity and the crushing austerity, the work had so a profound sensation of brilliance and energy. This made the work feel extremely beautiful and alluring as it flickered into life, like a flame on a wick. Throughout I was stunned by the poetic beauty, the skilled nuance and the modest brilliance of the work. What her piece said in its few audible moments, has spoken more wisdom than many composers have said in thousands. Without a doubt, this is the single most significant work of the whole festival. There is no confusion, Karolina Kapustaite is remarkable in her craft and is already a truly striking and thought provoking composer.

I felt sorry for the person who would have to follow such a giant work, thankfully the task went to one of the old figureheads of Lithuanian music. As the concert was also an opportunity to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the composer's union, two older composers's works were included in the concert. Teisutis Makacinas's Koncertinis Scherzo was the first. The work was lovely. The piece was full of wit and always had a skip in its step. It was wonderful to see this under performed composer get some limelight and it was also great to see the orchestra show us their metal. What I realised today is Makacinas has the same wit and charm of the late great Mervyn Burtch, I can only ponder what a meeting between the two of them would be like. All I know for sure is such a joint concert would be wonderfully brilliant. 

Gabrielius Simas Sapiega's A Torinoi lo was the second work by a young composer to be featured. Drawing influence from the ever optimistic Friedrich Nietsche, the work was bold and was a nice opportunity to final hear this elusive composer. The piece had the same kind of colours and shimmers you can find in Kaija Saariaho, and showed the composer has a good ear with an ensemble. Issues began to appear when the harmony became trapped on itself, forcing colour to be the only way to free itself. This then sadly meant the work began to be come a little lost on itself. However the composer has a good ear, a driven intellect and clear motivation. Over time, with solid work, he will find something truly memorable. 

Three years ago was the time I heard the wondrous St. Christopher's Orchestra. It was in Cardiff as part of the Vale of Glamorgan festival that year. What I loved is the fact that first concert and tonight's both included Jonas Tamulionis's Toccata Diavolesca. A fiery show piece, that I can only imagine is tons of fun for a performer to sink their teeth into. The piece I know phenomenally well, as funnily enough I had arranged it that same year (with the composer's permission of course). What I did notice in tonight's performance was the fact the orchestra went at it like Ursain Bolt. I have never heard such a quick rendition. I was a tad out of breath just watching. 

The finale fell on the shoulders of Dominykas Digimas's no sense. He has featured quite a bit in the festival, and I have been quick to point out where he needs vast improvement. Tonight however he showed me his klout. The work was amazingly focused, I have not seen this from the composer before, but it was striking and elegant. The focus in turn meant his harmonic language was far more well crafted and the slowly evolving melodic lines were heart melting. His ability to colour the backdrop with quasi-spectral surroundings meant the melody could just sit. It could ponder itself for hours without the need to move. This side of Dominykas has really tugged at my heart strings. I desperately want more of this kind of heavily focused, modestly skilled, and clearly spoken music. From my perspective this could be the sign of something significant for the composer. Even though the work had some hiccups and rough edges, it was still wonderful to listen to. To put it overtly poetically, it is like the composer is beginning to open a treasure chest. We know there is something brilliant about to appear, because the glow from the jewels inside the chest filled the gallery tonight.

Now to explain my earlier statement about not writing more about the festival. In short this is because of two reasons. Firstly from Saturday the festival will be in Druskininkai, and will repeat most of the concert. However there is a concert of new works tomorrow, now why aren't you going to review tomorrow's concert? I am glad you asked, due to unforeseen circumstances, the main conductor of N.A.M.E.S Ensemble (Austria) was too ill to travel to Vilnius with his ensemble, so the task has fallen to me to wave arms for the ordeal. So ultimately I thought it would be odd for me to write a review about myself waving arms. But I will give you all a sneak peak of what you can expect tomorrow. 

I am conducting three works, one by Mykolos Natelavicius, Kristupas Bubnelis, and Andrius Siurys. It has been an interesting set up from my point of view, as I know Andrius's work quite well, the piece shows he is continuing to grow, and the use of electronics alongside the ensemble is pretty striking and majestic. 

Working on Kristupas's work has also been an intriguing experience. I have seen a lot of potential in him and his music, and he shows the signs of interesting growth. His ability to get whistling intimacy and the same intense richness of 95% Dark Chocolate, is commendable. He is really coming on well and his piece is definitely worth listening to. 

What has been intriguing for me with Natelavicius's work has been finally seeing music from the performer's perspective. I admit I have felt at times his music falls far short of where it could be. But in this work, there is a greater focus, due to a recurring isorhythmic element of the music, as well as the fact with only five instruments a lack of focus would make a piece of music fall apart at the seems. This is his strongest piece I have heard, simply due to that focus.

There are two other works, which will definitely be worth listening to. Also don't worry about coming for me. Even if you hate me, that feeling will fall into insignificance when you hear the wonderful N.A.M.E.S ensemble. The Salzburg based ensemble are a joy to work with, a pleasure to listen to, and are simply an extremely high class quality of musician that is at times rare in this world. So as I said, come for them you won't regret it!

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