25 May 2016

Druskomanija 2016 - Day Three

Another day, another concert in the Druskomanija festival. Audience members wandered in from the lovely early summer heat, ensemble Synaesthesis wandered in looking cool and ready to drop something heavy.

Ensemble Synaesthesis is an ensemble built of young daring musicians wanting to do something new in the Lithuanian scene. It is a very noble move indeed, and the ensemble sure do have the energy to give it a bloody good shot. 

Their concert featured four works by composers, including two of the larger stalwart composers of the local scene; Rytis Mazulis and Gintaras Sodeika. The first work, Chrystal Images by George Halloway starting with rich harmonies appearing above a particularly resonant trombone fundamental, sumptuous colours burst from the density. As the piece progressed, the episodic break down of material became a tad cliched and stopped the piece from just sitting in a magical space. Each section was happy to sit still and ponder but then, became pointlessly broken. In short the piece opened up a space that could have been explored hours, allowing a glimpse at something infinitesimal. But instead skimmed the surface of an endless ocean never finding land, or gold.

Following this came Walking Cat Counterpoint by Aleksaj Kalinin. As soon as the piece started it stank with the stench of Steve Reich. The use of repetitive patterns and phasing and other 'minimalist' devices, gave us nothing new. We have heard it all before, maybe if the past 70 years didn't happen, I might have been impressed. To confound the problem, the work lacked the core ideal of American minimalism, a clearly audible structure or going through a process.  What we were given were smatterings of different pastiche Reich ideas which lasted a little while and were replaced by new ones. For a supposedly minimalist piece, there is a lot happening. The ideas weren't explored in a decent way by a minimalist's standards, or by any other kind of composer's standards.

The following work surprised and stunned me. It opened with a bright, brilliant burst of energy, the ensemble were pulsing slowly growing. The work was as charming as it was hypnotic. It was definitely the perfect tonic to cure the ailments of the preceding work. Then the moment that surprised me was the ending, seeing Rytis Mazulis walk up to the front. The work was very similar and very different to anything I have ever heard from Rytis. It had the same dependency and invention of canon that I have known and loved for a long time, but there was something wildly different about it. It was the happiest and most optimistic work I have ever heard by him. I have heard 'modal' pieces by him, like his Canon Solus, but it had a calmer more austere quality, and his more intensive works like Canon Mensurabilis, were brutal heavy handed and dark. I was stunned and surprised, and struck with a gleaming smile on my face. I am curious to see is this a new phase in the Mazulis saga, or is it merely something he needed to get out of his system? Either I do love it went giant figureheads evaluate their work and produce something wonderfully out of sync.

The finally was Dru Ka Ja Mu Di by Gintaras Sodeika. It started with whistles and scraps shuffling in the intimate space. The work continued to grow gradually and evolved into quite a magical ritual for ensemble. As the ritual intensified, the noise grew, leading to roars and growls from electronics. The work descended into an intense but awe inspiring anarchy. Then gradually the work came under control again, almost coming to a complete stop, before the electronics went nuts. The introduction of drum loops and screaming grooves were striking, but sadly felt a bit more comical under the circumstances. It felt more like Gabriel Prokofiev than a nice strong Romitelli. The work was so promising but the ending ultimately shattered the work. If the piece had started with more intense use of drum loops or had hinted at them more strongly I would have been convinced. Its quite a shame really, there are some really great pieces by the composer, this just didn't quite match the previous greats.

Ensemble Synaesthesis were very strong throughout and their conductor Karolis Variakojis was as steady and calm as a rock. When dealing with heavy minimalism I know how mind bending it can be to conduct or page turn for it, so hats off to a skilled conductor. My only issue is the ensemble are extremely talented and are hungry to bite into a good chunk of new music, I am curious with their obsession with minimalism. Mostly in the sense of it is far more mainstream than it used to be, admittedly composers like Laurence Crance, Eliane Radigue, and La Monte Young still scour the edges, but I am sure Synaethesis could tackle something with more grit and oomph. Seeing them try harder minimalists like Eliane Radigue or La Monte Young would be spectacular, or even getting their teeth stuck into some of the more violent avant-garde composers alive today like Iancu Dumitrescu, or Ana Maria-Avram to name just two. They did extremely well, I would just love to see them broaden themselves even further.

Following this came a late night shindig with a mini-moog and three pieces. I was one, I made some noises to start it off, the piece started, grew, then ended. I know noone reads this blog for me to talk about myself.

Alongside myself were two teams of composers, firstly the self proclaimed Voyage Voyage performed their MMVXLEtude. It was quite an intense exploration of the mini-moog and the two performers, Karolina Kapustaite and Dominykas Digimas, had a great interaction and rapour. 

The finale came in the form of Monika Zenkeviciute and Jura Elena Sedyte. Their Trys Saltiniai, was equally as impressive to witness and the two really found some fun areas and sounds to ponder. As their energy grew, they ended with a ring modulated scream and the 'late night' concert came to a close before 10pm. It was a wonderful light hearted event and everyone seemed impressed and content.

Now to bring on tonight's concert with the St. Christopher's Chamber Orchestra!

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