24 November 2017

Crossroads 2017

Having recently got back from a wonderful time in Salzburg, and finally having a few moments free to reflect, I thought now would be a wonderful time to talk about the lovely Baltic composers I got to hear while in Salzburg last week. I must point out the festival included a huge mix of composers from across the globe, and I myself did have the pleasure of two premieres in the festival. But due to the vast amount of composers, I will just mention the Baltic composers performed while I was there, due to the nature of the blog, and to save people some time. 

The festival featured many wonderful ensembles including N.A.M.E.S, Synaesthesis, OeNM, JVLMA, as well as performers from China. The festival well and truly has gone from strength to strength. The opening performed by the wonderful Latvian based ensemble JVLMA, was probably the most Baltic infused concert of the week, featuring performances by three young Latvians and an upcoming London based Lithuanian. The four musicians, Peteris Trasuns (viola), Viktors Stankevics (double bass), Guntis Kuzma (clarinet), and Arvydas Kazlauskas (saxophone), really shone in the concert. The mix of repertoire presented to them was extremely diverse and they never seemed to falter stylistically ever. Kristupas Bubnelis's premiere Tubi e cordi was a truly fascinating work, and does show the composer is reaching an interesting moment within his work. The nuance of communication between the ensemble, and the control of harmonic language really made the work shine. Kristupas has been someone I've observed for a significantly long time, and it is great to see him growing so much as a composer. The curious thing for me within his piece, was the loose parallels with Berg and Vykintas Baltakas. The works were firmly rooted in a post-tonal language, but kept the nuances of tonality and the traditional sensation of a dialogue between a quartet.

Anna Kirse's solo viola work Neurosteina was a strong piece indeed. Extremely focused, and the use of the vast array of colours never felt like a gimmick or naive attempts to sound 'experimental'. It was focused and elegant, Peteris Trasuns really made it glow. Andrievs Alksnis's duo for clarinet and double bass Punktualas vadlinijas was playful and managed to get a lot out of the forces. It did at times feel slightly cliched in its overtly 'jazzy' gestures but for an extremely young composer there is a good talent, which if nurtured well can really grow into quite a solid composer. Margarita Gapcenko's Curriculum Astri was nice to hear again. I had heard a rendition performed in Vilnius by an upstart ensemble, but wasn't particularly impressed by the overall performance. JVLMA's performance however really brought the clarity and brilliance of the piece to life. Her ability with harmony and with blending of the forces was extremely good, especially considering how disparate the group is. What I particularly liked was how Margarita and Kristupas managed to make such an unconventional ensemble sound like the most stand of ensembles, making the mix sound truly natural, and rich. 

The other concerts did not have the same influx of Balts, but the OeNM concert on the penultimate day featured two talented Lithuanians; Dominykas Digimas and Raimonda Ziukaite. These two composers I have been particularly fascinated with during my stay in Vilnius and it was great to see them programmed by such a talented ensemble. Raimonda's work Heavenly Heavy drew inspiration from Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus and was particularly fascinated by how a reversal of something can suddenly make something positive extremely sinister. Or something evil could become very funny and playful. Like with other recent works, the piece had heavy echoes of tonal harmony which had a very curious sensation considering the environment and context. The structure of the work was hard to follow at times, by the wonderful members of OeNM played it astoundingly making the journey fascinating to follow. Due to the sheer beauty of instrumental forces, I found it extremely difficult to spot the moment we descended into something evil, but I imagine with a richer use of the more powerful harp sounds could have expanded that. This being said the piece was still rather pleasing to listen to. 

Dominykas Digimas's Rain in the Mist drew influence on a Haiku of the same name. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a sucker for Haiku so I was already pleased or at least in a positive place to start with. When the composer let me see a sneak peek of the score, I did jokingly point out it was the most amount of notes I'd ever seen in his works. Like is almost tradition with this young upstart, electronics were heavily featured. When the lights were turned off at the start, the sheer richness of the electronic sound did fill the small space rather magically. The bustling energy within the instrumental parts was fascinating, but like Feldman's Coptic Light being overloaded with such a huge amount sound forced a sensation of stillness which was fascinating to listen to. I do feel the composer is beginning to develop into quite a personal swagger, but there are still elements of growth needed. Maybe, because I studied in a nation which adored it's harps, I was acutely aware that the harp writing wasn't quite as elaborate as his string writing, or his electronics. I was also aware the harmonic language is growing, so I am particularly fascinated with where it is headed. I shall definitely keep an eye on him, like I have been doing for a while.

The other concerts in the festival were rather exquisite, and if the blog wasn't dedicated to the Baltic I would have written extremely thoroughly about it. N.A.M.E.S ensemble were particularly outstanding they are very quickly becoming a vital element of music within Salzburg and I sincerely hope they continue growing exponentially. Ensemble Synaesthesis were also on extremely good form and it is reassuring seeing they are gaining quite an internationally standing, having arrived in Salzburg after a few days in Bratislava for the contemporary music festival there.

After attending last year's Crossroads Festival, I was so glad to see the festival has grown, and gained such a large support from the Mozarteum. The mix of composers and repertoire, combined with fascinating talks and discussions (I know I was one of the talks, but it was a joy to be presented alongside such strong standing lecturers; and all I know in mine people weren't too bored, so I am content with my output). I do sincerely wish the festival grows in success and I do hope I get to return next year. 

Here's hoping.

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