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Vêl - 1991-2001 - Lithuanian Chamber Music
Bronius KUTAVICIUS (b. 1932)

Astuonios Stasio miniaturos for flute, violin and viola (2000)
Onutê NARBUTAITE (b. 1956)

Winterserenade: Paraphrase of Franz Schubert's lied 'Gute Nacht' from Winterreise for flute, violin and viola (1997)
Mozartsommer for flute, violin, viola and piano (cembalo) (1991)
Remigijus MERKELYS (b. 1964)

FlaVio for flute, violin and viola (2001)
Osvaldas BALAKAUSKAS (b. 1937)

Rex Re for flute, violin, viola and piano (2000)
Mindaugas URBAITIS (b. 1952)

Der Fall Wagner for flute, violin and viola (1997)
Carsten Hustedt (flute); Ingrida Armonaite (violin); Audrone Psibilskiene (viola); Ute Stoecklin (piano)
rec. 28-30 June 2001, SWR, Hans-Rosbaud-Studio, Baden-Baden, Germany. DDD
GUILD GMCD 7283 [67:12]


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The classical recording industry has multiple links with the music of the Baltic states. Estonia and Antes/Bella Musica go hand in hand. Eres is strong on Latvia and now Guild have issued this disc of Lithuanian music. As it turns out I have been listening to a great deal of Lithuanian music over the last six months courtesy of the Lithuanian Music Information Centre.

'Vêl' - the title of this album - is the word for 'again' which in turn expresses the boundless spirit of excited renewal and opportunity brimming in the Baltic conclave.

If I have a criticism of the notes it is that they are fragmented but what there is provides a helpful backdrop. Ute Stoecklin who is also the pianist is a reflective writer. It is just a shame that there was not more space to fully trace the history of all five composers back into the pre-1991 era.

Kutavicius's meditative minimalism is by no means spare or static. Here is a touch of Pärt's Cantus (Sorrow and Bird Behind the Pane), pressurised angst (Scream and Yellow beads), repetitive chatter (Clown and Cardboard Man), Penderecki-like wails and ululations (Clown and Yellow Beads), rhythmically hunting and chaffing (The Triangle) and meditative, though slightly salty, Bachian repose (The eternal peace).

Kutavicius has made a grand impact on Lithuanian music through his four oratorios: Pantheistic Oratorio (1970), Last Customs of the Heathen (1978), From the Stone of the Jatwinger (1983) and The Tree of the World (1986). Now those I would like to hear very much.

Narbutaite's two works are less overtly avant-garde than Kutavicius's. The Winter Serenade is a mosaic of acidic delicacy where the allusive fragments relating to the Schubert song dance around and fall as if in a crystal snowstorm. Mozart Summer adopts a similar approach but the shards of Mozartian material rarely coalesce in the way that the fragments do in Winter Serenade. It is more angular: all elbows and knees - a fascinating experience though.

Narbutaite was a pupil of Julius Juzeliunas and has lived in Vilnius since 1982. She is also a painter and poet.

Merkelys is also a Juzeliunas pupil. He participated in George Crumb's master-classes held in Salzburg. His FlaVio (a conflation of flauto and violin) is a study in sonority and is rather dry - a little like very late Stravinsky.

Balakauskas studied with Liatoshinsky in Kiev and was ambassador to France, Spain and Portugal: 1992-94. His Rex Re has more emotional juice than the Merkelys piece but is clearly in the same line. Persistent and insistent in effect it is at times like the Ravel string quartet in its forward thrust.

Urbaitis is another Juzeliunas pupil who now teaches at the Lithuanian Music Academy. Urbaitis's Der Fall Wagner has a sweeter warmer affekt than any of the other works. Let's forget the Wagnerian title (heard innocently I doubt that any of us would think of Wagner) what we are more likely to relate to is a sort of minimalist Ravel with Tchaikovskian overtones. It is the most romantic, not to say sweetly-f'lavoured, of all the scores on this disc.

Not up to speed with the latest from the Lithuanian chamber scene? Here is a good place from which to launch your expedition.

Rob Barnett



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