is by all accounts the leading composer
in Lithuania today, as well as being
one of that country’s leading teachers.
He has also served his homeland as a
diplomat in ambassadorial posts in France,
Portugal and Spain.
The Requiem was
written when prominent Lithuanian politician
Stasys Lozoraitis died suddenly in 1994.
His death left the nation in shock,
and prompted Balakauskas to compose
this, his only sacred work.
style is derivative of a number of earlier
ideas. He has invented his own system
of serialism, which he calls dodekatonika,
sometimes using all twelve pitches
of the chromatic scale, and at other
times using eight pitches in a pre-arranged
order. He is also heavily influenced,
at least in this work, by medieval and
early Renaissance polyphonists. Throw
in a dash of pop-culture mystics Arvo
Pärt and John Tavener, and you
begin to get a bit of an idea as to
Balakauskas’ sound world.
Composed with the intention
of being performed in concert and not
liturgically, the Requiem is
a rather sparse work scored for chamber
orchestra, a single soloist and chorus.
Balakauskas does not waste notes; in
fact, he seems to use only the precise
number needed to get through all the
words with very little elaboration.
This was a hopeful sign when I first
began listening, but then I quickly
got the feeling that the composer did
little to get past the epidermis of
the text. The music is not particularly
memorable or tuneful, and if that is
the case, then there needs to be some
pretty interesting and original sound
ideas. I just did not get the idea that
the composer had plumbed the depths
of this famous and emotion charged text
to its full potential.
This is not a difficult
work to listen to by any means, and
from time to time an interesting idea
pops up. From a performance standpoint,
the forces here deliver a professional,
well-rehearsed rendition, but there
is nothing particularly remarkable about
it either. Soloist Judita Leitaitė
has a rich, creamy voice not over laden
with vibrato. She delivers her texts
with clarity and packs in as much sincerity
and emotion as the music will allow
(which is not much.)
It is a good thing
indeed that Naxos have taken it upon
themselves to bring the music of our
time to the world audience. And for
a certain portion of our readership,
this will be an interesting curiosity,
especially at Naxos’s excellent price.
To these ears, however, this is work
that seems destined for the library
shelves not to be heard much in the
future. Buy this one at your own risk.