8 September 2016

A hoquet and an exploration of 10 years of Narbutaite

This evening in the overflowing National Art Gallery, was the second in a triptych of concerts dedicated to the life and work of Onute Narbutaite, who celebrates her 60th birthday this year. This particular concert was focused on a 10 year period of her life, from 1986-1995, a fascinating period for two reasons; firstly it is a period that isn't celebrated that greatly and secondly it is a period when the trademark Narbutaite sound evolved into the magic we know and love today.Once again it was wonderful to see a concert were we were nearly literally up to the rafters with audience members of all walks of life eager to hear this rare treats.

After a heartfelt speech giving tribute and concert began with the percussion trio 'Monogramme' (1992). The work started with sporadic pops and stabs from the percussionists, the mood was very much akin to Xenakis in their almost random but almost mathematical precise gesturing. From this gradually melodic materials appeared in the pitched percussions which glistened and rang in the hall ceremoniously. The sense of anticipation and energy was always simmering away in the work, even during passages of almost complete stillness. On the whole the work was intriguing for many reasons, firstly for its similarities to major European composers like Iannis Xenakis and Hans Abrahamsen (during the modal passages). In the work you can hear a desire to find something greater than what it is.

The following work 'Astuonstyge' (1986) is the oldest work featured in the concert and sadly hasn't aged as well as the other repertoire in the concert. The intensive violin and viola duo, is full of violent posturing from the musicians, as well as passages of quite serene beauty. But the work feels a bit lost on two grounds, firstly the blocky structure ultimately negates the violent passages, almost neutering them. This combined with lasting just a bit too long kind of sucked the energy out of the room. This being said, the work is a great demonstration of the contrapuntal skills of the then, younger composer. The piece also stands as a great test piece really demonstrating everything that can be achieved in such a dynamic. The performers were second to none, but I imagine if the structure was far more obviously organic, or the work was a tad shorter it would have been astounding. All this being said, Narbutaite has evolved into a truly magnificent composer, and this work serves as a good biographical piece, showing her evolution to her current state.

The third work was by far my personal favourite. 'Liberatio' (1989) is a work I have been vaguely familiar with for a long while now as it is featured on the wonderful CD produced my Finlandia which features her magnificent second symphony. With the first notes of the flute the piece grabs you. The hypnotic harmonic material slowly begins to grow, constantly circling on itself, it lures you in. Then at points when you are most mesmerised she strikes with bold brass chords and ringing dense harmonies. The sensation is as powerful and one sided as a hammer smashing an eclair, it completely decimates and makes a massive impact.This particular piece is a very poignant moment, with in this you can hear Narbutaite found her voice. But instead of timidly crafting it into elegant profundities she used that voice to scream. The work is magnificently brutal and the acoustic of the gallery only magnified it. A stunning piece and definitely worth listening to the recording which is on Spotify.

Following on from this, a short speech was given my Onute Narbutaite, allowing for massive stage management to occur for the final two pieces. The penultimate piece 'Hoquetus' (1993) is a curious little work for viola, cello, and double bass. In short the rhythmic games of the hoquet are like watching the manic dance of a three legged person. The gestures bounce around and the trio manage to keep a sense of jollity despite the obvious complexity in the rhythmic patterns. The piece was a well programmed bit of respite after the power of 'Liberatio' and the upcoming immensity of 'Verinys'.

The finale came in the form of 'Verinys' (1995), a fascinating ritual-like piece for winds, strings and percussion. The instrumentalists were dotted all over the place creating a wonderful 3D field of sound to surround  the audience. Each musician is given a collection of fragments that they are to play and the conductor defines the beginning of each section. What this set-up creates is a truly magical piece where the wind instruments slowly gather their combined sound, growing into a ringing magnificent aura of sound. Before slowly fading away as the next section takes hold. The sensation of time is rather curious within this piece as ideas calmly drift in, but like in nature, things fade away leaving only faint murmurs of their past existence. No matter their power or majesty everything fades away. The atmosphere after the final note was powerful. Holding everyone in place.

Even though within this concert only two pieces really stand the test of time, a concert like this still has a major value. It shows us the state of flux within the composer's own existence during this time, ignoring the social and political changes going on around her at the same time. It also shows the many routes she could have traveled as a composer, reminding us that despite the freshness of ideas used, doesn't mean they give the composer a decent amount of longevity to their work. Finally this kind of concert really allows us to understand how Narbutaite became Narbutaite, and if we are to understand great composers, understanding them in the context of their own works is of vital importance. 

No comments:

Post a Comment