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Jeronimas KAČINSKAS (1907-2005)
Nonet for woodwinds and strings (1932-36) [26:05]
Reflections, for piano (1957) [15:41]
Chamber Fantasy, for flute, string quartet and piano (1981) [5:25]
String Quartet No.3 (1993) [11:53]
Vilnius String Quartet (all except Reflections)
St Christopher Quintet (nonet)
Arnoldas Gurinavičius (double bass: nonet)
Gabrielius Alekna (piano: Reflections) 
Daumantas Kirilauskas (piano: Fantasy) 
Giedrius Gelgotas (flute: Fantasy) 
rec. October 2007 and March 2009, Lithuanian National Philharmonic Hall
TOCCATA TOCC 0169 [59:22]

Lithuanian composer Jeronimas Kačinskas spent the second half of his long life in exile in America. A piano and viola student, he pursued an innovative route in 1929 when he travelled to Prague to study composition under Jaroslav Křička. He then took further instruction from Alois Hába, whose microtonal experiments proved highly influential on the younger man. On graduation in 1931 quarter-tone usage was part of Kačinskas’ musical armoury. This he was to demonstrate after his return to Lithuania and renewed composition, albeit life was a struggle and his conducting and teaching aspirations were to some extent thwarted.
 
The four works programmed here are drawn from his chamber and instrumental music and are all heard in premiere recordings. The Nonet is the most immediately arresting and notable of the pieces. The first three movements were completed in 1932 and one can hear Hába’s influence in Kačinskas’ confident handling of atonality and also his cultivation of piquant textures. The first performers of the work were the members of the Czech Nonet, then and now amongst the greatest such ensembles; string quartet and flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn. The opportunities for colour and moreover for rapid characterisation are clear, and we move from a tense, uneasy, quite unstable opening via a fascinatingly contoured Allegro Moderato to the pawky fanfares and independent lines of the third movement. This was also the finale at its early performances even though a fourth movement was added in 1936, which Hába successfully argued should be played independently. One can hear that the language is somewhat different.
 
A generation separates the Nonet from Reflections, a four-movement work for piano, composed in 1957. The tenor of the music has retreated from his pre-war involvement in quarter-tones and reveals instead an enthusiasm for well-couched impressionism and for highly congenial, appropriately scaled writing. In 1981 he wrote the Chamber Fantasy for flute, string quartet and piano. It’s compact at five minutes but is clearly sectional, and arresting in many ways. Its shifting patterns and colours attest to Kačinskas control of material and the ways in which he can both juxtapose and fuse such material. After this comes the 1993 Third String Quartet. In his mid-80s he shows no slackening of skill, and here the music is once more both compact and contrastive. The two opening movements are predominantly slow - there’s a brief Janáček-like accumulation of tension at the end of the opening one - and this, and the ensuing Adagio, full of expressive intensity, perfectly prepare one for the finely-judged release of the fantasia-finale.
 
The recordings are not hot off the press, having been taped in 2007 and 2009, but they display a nuanced and structurally sensitive approach to the works. I hope we hear more of Kačinskas, a voice well worth hearing.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 



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