11 November 2017

Lithuanian composers winning prizes

On the 10th November, the Lithuanian Composers' Union had their awards again. For those who have been reading the blog long enough, will probably remember my thoughts about the previous ceremony. There were many interesting changes of circumstances this time. Firstly from my own point of view, I had the joy of witnessing almost all the shortlisted works, and the works which won I did see their premieres. This was also the first award ceremony under the new leadership of Mykolas Natalevicius. So I was particularly fascinated to see how this would influence the choice of winners.

This year, there were three winners Juste Janulyte, Vytautas Germanavicius, and Dominykas Digimas. I have to say I was overall thrilled by the choices. There is a diversity and in general I was overjoyed to see the composers getting the recognition they deserve.
Juste Janulyte's Harp Is A Chord was awarded for the Chamber category. As I mentioned in my review from the premiere, the work was astounding. I loved the interaction between the disparate instruments and both performers Goska Isphording (Harpsichord) and Maciej Frackiewicz (Accordion) seemed naturally built for such a performance. Well done to all involved!

Dominykas Digimas's no sense was awarded in the 'Youth' or 'Young Composer' (depending on how literal or archaic you are when you translate) category. This was another premiere I got to witness. I was, and still am extremely eager about the work. The sense of focus, and compositional construction was very well written, especially for a student. The performance by the St. Christopher's Orchestra, under the well crafted arm of Donatas Katkus was astounding. With this particular category, I was intrigued by how they went about deciding the winner. Ultimately if it was based purely on the string orchestra concert I would have hated to have been on that panel. All three works by Dominykas, Karolina Kapustaite, and 
Gabrielius Simas Sapiega were works of an extremely high quality. So all parties were equally deserving, but regardless. Many congratulations to Dominykas Digimas!

The final choice Vytautas Germanavicius, his PovandeninÄ— geometrija for saxophone and orchestra was premiered in the opening night of Gaida Festival 2016. I was overjoyed in the night, due to it being my birthday, witnessing a concert with Kurtag in, and it was the start of a festival that I find extremely exciting. I sadly was not sold on Germanavicius's piece. Which is a shame, considering how strong his chamber compositions are. Admittedly, I hardly expected to truly agree with every piece in an awards ceremony, but I am very pleased by the 2/3 this time around.

I'd be amiss not to mention the pieces I wished were more positively celebrated. Two premieres I was particularly enthusiastic about were Ramunas Motiekaitis's X Cikliai for accordion, strings, and percussion. The murmurs and shimmers of the work was divine and the atmosphere was inspired. Arguably my favourite work by an under celebrated composer. The other work I wish gained more recognition here was Commentum by Vyktinas Baltakas. The work was an adaptation of a cello and piano duo of the same name. The newly orchestrated version was not just a simple orchestration. The work explored and expanded on the ideas within the duo and coloured beautifully within the orchestra. The premiere performed by Francesco Dillon was particularly brilliant and the orchestra managed to bring out the conversational charm of the music. Enjoy the wonderfully produced video of the premiere below. 

To conclude, very well done to all winners, and best of luck to future competitors!

6 November 2017

GAIDA 2017: The Snippets I heard

The time has essentially been and gone, GAIDA Festival 2017 stormed into Vilnius bringing a huge variety of new music as well as genuinely fascinating performances. For those who've seen my posts in previous years, know I approached this festival like a kid in a sweetshop. Flying from one event to another, manically typing and wittering in a sugar-fuelled trip. Annoyingly this year, I was rather distant, namely 1000 miles distant and merely seeing the wonderful reporting of Paulina Nalivaikaite and other social media discussion.

This being said, thanks to having people in the right places, and composers sharing their wonderful work I have had the chance to listen to two particular premieres. The first being a new work for piano and strings by Zibuokle Martinaityte called Chiaroscuro Triology. The work performed by Gabrielius Alekna (piano) and Robertas Servenikas (conductor) did initially give me alarm bells when I saw the title. Not because I was concerned about the quality of work, but more names like Chiaroscuro or Metamorphesis or Meditation or Sound Study have become overdone. Maybe I am just a cynic having been over indulged on such titles. However, once Zibuokle shared the recording on Soundcloud I obviously, had to listen instantly. And to be simple and direct. I was stunned. The moment the opening chord lands everything just feels right. The three movement work plays on different metaphors of light against dark, and it is explored to exquisite brilliance. This kind of duality opens up a fantastic conversational dynamic. Which is exploited well by the use of soloist. Gabrielius Alekna performs with such elegance it is almost like he was born for the sole purpose of performing this piece. I can only imagine within the concert hall setting the atmosphere must have been divine. Stunned into silence while the light and shadow dance their eternal dance right in our very ears.

The second work was shared to me personally by the composer. When I had initially heard Justina Repeckaite had been commissioned for an orchestral piece, I could have jumped for joy. It was so wonderful to see the festival had such faith in her to ask for an orchestral piece from the young prodigy. Having worked a lot over the year with Justina, there have been times I have rather felt like her shadow; constantly following and observing every inch of her creative process. Cosmatesque was not an exception. Having had the luxury of seeing the score shortly after completion I was struck by the skill and nuance within the piece. The organic control of timbre and pitch, the subtle flutters of percussion, and sheer directness of construction really struck me and I knew the performance would be a truly special event indeed. The performance, under the baton of Christopher Lyndon-Gee, was inspired. What particularly hit me about the performance was the conductor's tenacity and ability to craft the performance to his design. Often when conductors approach a work focused around a mass of sound, they almost get washed adrift by the sheer immensity of it. However Lyndon-Gee managed to really highlight and exploit the subtleties within the piece. The result was almost like witnessing and extended conversation across the orchestra, with a simple counterpoint of two melodies is spread across the technicolour spectrum of the orchestra. Each note and iteration sounding like a continuation of a never-ending melody. This is definitely the first time I have found myself almost suggesting Justina Repeckaite has a slight hint of Wagnerian flair in her work. But in reality the greater comparison is with Per Norgard's Voyage into the Golden Screen where the second movement his constructed on his infinity series. The constant rolling of sound and melodic figures carries you on quite the journey leaving you curious to see where the ending will take you. Just a joy to listen to.

Having listened to these two pieces alone, I can tell GAIDA 2017 was a huge success, I am just sad I missed it all. I was particularly curious to see how the other events went down. Either way, I sincerely hope I can return to the festival in 2018.