16 September 2016

Jeronimas Kacinskas - Missa Brevis

For today's post I thought it would be nice to look back at one of my biggest loves from Lithuania during the early 20th Century, Jeronimas Kacinskas. A composer of intense originality and drive he wrote some of the most definitive and seminal works of Lithuania's history. Born 1907, Jeronimas Kacinskas was a part of the generation of composers who came to musical maturity at the same time Lithuania gained independence. This period was bustling with energy as many composers and artists were desperate to work out what is Lithuanian music? The search for national identity combined with a desire to modernise and keep up with the rest of Europe were desires particularly prevalent in Jeronimas Kacinskas and his contemporaries like Vytautas Bacevicius.

Jeronimas Kacinskas found that Lithuanian audiences during this period to be very hesitant to evolve with him, and in turn founded a musical journal Muzikos Barai which attempted to introduce people to new modern ideas being explored by artists. His desires to explore new ideas were so vital that he was recommend to study in Prague, where audiences and composers were far more experimental. Kacinskas followed this advice and went on to Prague where he learnt about the microtonal music of Alois Haba with whom he had taken many lessons. During this time Kacinskas had written his second string quartet, which was the first Lithuanian piece to use microtonal thinking. Sadly due to the chaos created by the onset of war this piece disappeared.

It is during this fraught period that saw many Eastern Europeans being forced to abandon their homes for calmer and more prosperous shores. For Kacinskas and his family, they fled the Soviets who had already labelled him as far too decadent. After a significant stasis in the USA controlled regions of Germany, Kacinskas went on to America with many diaspora Lithuanians like Vytautas Bacevicius. After his move to America, he stilled composed for many years and taught in Boston where he lived. Out of all his contemporaries in America, he was the only one to survive to see his native land regain independence where he was able to return and his music was finally able to be rediscovered by his kin.

Kacinskas's life is a fascinating one, mostly because it shows a composer who just brushed himself off and carried on. During his lifetime he wrote many significant works, his Nonetas is of particular significance due to its intensity and gorgeous brutality. The similarities with Bartok are very prevalent. This is a work I will return to in more detail, but I wanted to start off with his Missa Brevis (1945). This small work for male voices is quite a curious and beautiful piece. In its four movements you see a composer with a fine craft but also manages to add wonderful surprises within such a simple and confined space. I also find it particularly poignant considering it is a work written on the stroke of the second world war ending. And I simply adore that despite the chaos around him, he just wrote. Didn't need to make a big event of it, just wrote simply and directly and the result if beautiful.

The kyrie is almost homophonic throughout, the four part setting rolls and lilts around. Slowly gathering itself into really striking moments. The little surprises in the movement come in the form of little tertiary shifts where the music just skips a beat harmonically but it never interrupts the flow of the music, but actually extends it. 
The following sanctus builds up in a similar manner, with the same kind of tertiary shifts. The conclusion is really strong and just wonderful to listen to. The benedictus feels the most fluid with lines rippling along. Then the final agnus dei is just divine, a real treat for the ears.

The mass is brief and modest, but that in no way diminishes its beauty and craft. It is a real joy to listen to the whole thing. Below is a recording from a CD I recently got from the music information centre here in Vilnius. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment