3 June 2016

Windows to Lithuania

After a much needed recovery from Druskomanija 2016, I am back refreshed with another review to witter on about. This time I am reviewing a CD I have been eager to get my hands on as soon as it was first released. The Windows to Lithuania CD, produced by Ars Lituanica, is a fantastic little snippet at some of the wonderful chamber music that has been produced in the nation. The CD features composers like Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, Stasys Vainiunas, Balys Dvarionas, and Loreta Narvilaite to name just a few.

The first three tracks are three preludes by M.K. Ciurlionis which has been arranged for piano trio by N. Galiamova. I am quite fond of the three preludes for multiple reasons, Pastorale VL. 187 is a prelude I have been quietly murdering on the piano for some time now, so it is nice to hear it played beautiful. The three works are quite cute, and gain a slightly more serene life when put into a piano trio context. Its must have been perplexing for Gintaras Janusevicius to play these preludes in this situation. The overall sound is beautiful from the trio, always melodic, always harmonious, and the three stunning musicians sound like a unit, never like three soloists competing.

Then is Stasys Vainiunas's piano, which starts with a very dark rich slow unwinding of melodic materials, and has a strong air of Schumann to it. This being said it is by no means pastiche. The drama of the trio is intensified by the counterpoint in the three instruments who always seem to be adding to discourse constantly. And despite the opening darkness, the trio manage to really bring out the sparky playful character of the Allegro moderato in the first movement. The second movement is simply beautiful. And listening to it, it really feels a shame that this CD is my first encounter with the work. Its gorgeous melody and chocolatey harmonies are something that will be loved throughout Britain, Classic FM would love to play this; especially with these performers. The driving finale is full of oomph and the trio marvelously never over play this quality, retaining a strong sense of control and elegance despite the intensity.

The follow tracks are for Balys Dvarionas's Winter Sketches (Ziemos eskizai). The small piano works are wonderfully curious collection of miniatures which have a similar flavour to works by Debussy or Satie. The works are modest but elegantly crafted and are full of character. Gintaras Janusevicius really shows his klout and whimsy as a performer in this recording, which is especially wonderful considering he doesn't show off in the trio setting preferring to maintain the correct nature of the trio.

Next Gleb Pysniak plays through Vytautas Paltanavicius's Rhapsody for cello. The short four minute track is full of the same drama and beauty as Kodaly's and Bartok's cello works. A real show piece for any capable cellist. Gleb does not disappoint in this recording. A cellist with real power and strength but also the ability to step back and allow plain beauty through. Magnificent.

The final solo moment comes in the form of Dalia Dedinskaite playing Vytautas Barkauskas's Partita for violin. Another great show piece for the instrument, its five movements draw out a lot of character and nuance demanding a lot of artistry from its performer. In the CD sleeve is a wonderful quote from the composer:

'Although I have heard my Partita a hundred times. I was delighted when I heard Dalia Dedinskaite several years ago. The mood, special charisma, suggestion. I fell in love and haven't fallen out of it' 

I couldn't agree more. A stunning recording of a modestly demanding work.

Zita Bruzaite's Sonnet IV is the next featured work and it is simply beautiful. The simplicity of harmony and clear statements and interactions are delightful. With a work this simplistic in nature, it takes really dedicated musicians to bring into a good light. To often professional musicians play down or under perform simple because it is 'simple'. The trio of Dalia, Gleb, and Gintaras are far beyond that. The communication as a trio, interaction, elegance, and ability is just a joy to listen to.

Anatolijus Senderovas's Song and Dance (Giesme ir sokis). Is a charming diptych for trio. The opening is placed beautiful in the centre and is just allowed to sit. The trio avoid the temptation to drag out the tune too much, maintaining interest and keeping the performance tasteful. The following dance is a lot of fun. I can only imagine how much fun it is to play such a lighthearted bouncing work. The moments of humour are pulled off well and never feel forced or like they just burst the bubble. Another wonderful rendition by the trio.

The penultimate recording Pamatyk jura tolumoje (See the Sea in the Distance) by Loreta Narvilaite is stunning, probably my favourite track on the CD. Its lilting and rolling lines and motifs are crystal clear and shimmer. The repetitive nature of musical gestures are hypnotic and leave you stunned. For a beautiful and still work it is full of a smaller level of energy which is masked very well by the trio, some ensembles would be tempted to make the busy nature of the texture a major detail shattering the illusions created by the composer. Everything in this recording of this piece is done immaculately and is probably the best rendition of this piece I will ever hear.

The finale of the CD is a rather charming rendition of the Lithuanian folk song Prie Nemunelio by Aleksandras Kacanauskas. The harmonisation is quite elegant and not too sentimental but still heartfelt. A simply enjoyable and lovely track to finish off a rather brilliant CD by the trio.

I cannot recommend this CD enough. It is great for multiple reasons, firstly because it is a great showcase of some of the lesser known Lithuanian composers and shows the expansive nature of Lithuanian classical music. It is also worth getting hold of simply because the musicians are just fantastic. Every piece is recording amazingly well and every rendition is great. These great musicians are worth listening to for days on end!

As a great hint of what is in store, hear Dalia Dedinskaite performing Vytautas Barkauskas's Partita


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