23 September 2016

Vytautas Montvila: Chorai

As things are relatively calm on the concert front for, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to return to a cycle I started discussing this time last year. The Lithuanian composer Vytautas Montvila is one of the most curious composers I have discovered during my time within Lithuania. His skillful craft of combining folk music and sonoristic gestures together makes for a rather remarkable listen. 

In the post I did last year on Montvila I discussed his Gothic Poem, the first and largest part of a cycle of three orchestral pieces called Poems of Vilnius. In Gothic Poem we see variations forms of folk music appearing within the thick canonic texture. You can listen to it below:

Chorai is an interesting partner for the triptych, as ultimately it is seemingly the most modest. In comparison to the dense shimmering haze of Gothic Poem, Chorai starts with a simple, quiet diad of E and G#. This steadily builds into a beautiful modal undercurrent which the oboes introduce the main ideas of melodic focus. The entry of the horns and trombones brings with it a really rich and thick orchestration really bringing the orchestra to life. This gradually fades away to a very serene pause within the momentum. This slowly leads to a large gathering of energy and power where the flutes and horns contest their folk melodies against the oboes and clarinets. Another breathing space manifests itself, before culminating into the largest climax of the work. Like a lot of moments through the piece, every moment is short lived and only really briefly considered. The work after the climax begins to lose its energy and returns to the same stillness it opened with.

When compared directly to its partner piece, Gothic Poem, Chorai is seemingly naive in comparison to the larger segment. But within its simplicity and restrained modesty the work has a unique charm with it. The orchestration is highly skilled and oddly austere, when you consider the sheer mass Montvila is using within the piece. Within the context of the whole triptych, Chorai is a beautiful and much needed refrain. The dark intensity of the opening can only be countered by the direct openness of the Chorai, it also allows for Svente (the finale) to really let itself loose. Its joyous bombastic energy is majestic, and definitely something I will come to in the future.

You can listen to Chorai here, I hope you enjoy:

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