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Baltic Concerti
Pēteris VASKS (b. 1946)
Vox amoris, fantasy for violin and strings (2009) [23:31]
Julius JUZELIŪNAS (1916-2001)
Concerto for organ, violin and string orchestra (1963) [27:13]
Anatolijus ŠENDEROVAS (b. 1945)
Concerto for violin and chamber orchestra (2017) [20:32]
Džeraldas Bidva (violin)
Karolina Juodelytė (organ)
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Modestas Pitrėnas, Adrija Čepaitė
rec. 2014/2016, Lithuanian National Philharmonic Hall, Vilnius
ODRADEK ODRCD369 [71:21]

The Baltic here embraces Latvia and Lithuania in three very different concerto soundscapes composed over a 50-year period.

Vasks’ Vox amoris is a one-movement concerto that takes love as its theme. It opens with a shimmering delicacy of sound, barely audible, like a chorale, before the violin solo emerges from the gauzelike tissue of music, deep basses sliding up too. Occasionally the orchestra suggests more incursive gestures but the music remains both beautiful and lucid, moving and deft, with the vaguest echoes of Barber’s Adagio. The cadenza around the 7-minute mark sees an unleashing of temperament but the tenor of the music, appropriately given its subject matter, remains of the deepest lyricism, the most ardent expression. A second cadential passage around the 14-minute mark leads to an even greater, achingly beautiful close.

Julius Juzeliūnas, composer and educator, sits at a vital axis point in modern Lithuanian music and his Concerto, for the rare combination of organ, violin and string orchestra, dates from 1963. Cast in a broadly but not exclusively neo-classical form, this three-movement work is rightly named, as the organ takes just as important a role as does the violin. Indeed, the sepulchral intoning of the organ contrasts with the violin’s somewhat nineteenth-century figuration, the string orchestra interjecting or supporting rather tersely. There are elements of the fantasia in the writing, and a quotient of the folkloric for the fiddle. The central movement, a Passacaglia, has an expected melancholy but the violin is given its own space too, whereas the finale’s double fugue is laced with the ripest of polyphony. Perhaps the work’s most refined moments come in the slow section of this con brio movement, when the violin eloquently declaims over the organ’s Elysian accompaniment. Unusual and strange though this work may seem, it encodes Juzeliūnas’s liking for folk song, improvisational elements, Baroque forms, polyphony, and a kind of eagle-like solemnity.

Šenderovas’ concerto was composed in 2007 but underwent revision and is heard in its 2013 version. This is a concerto on the cut and thrust principle; monologues and interrogatives are part of its dramatic sense of interrupted movement. Melancholic, as well as dramatic, the music has a taut and vehement element – listen out for the percussive outbursts – that ensure that the listener is kept in a state of constant unease. There are, too, reflective sections toward the end and these are pure and spare when the music, as if exhausted by its own eruptive force, slowly dissolves into a kind of aural drizzle. This is all constructed with a kind of masterly patterning, and the journey is well worth the making.

The soloist is Džeraldas Bidva, concertmaster of the Kremerata Baltica and Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, and a violinist of exceptional qualities. His ability to subsume and to project alike are admirable features of his selflessly arresting performances. Conductor Modestas Pitrėnas directs with a superfine ear for balance and for construction in these three very different, demanding works. Fortunately, he has a superb ensemble at his disposal, and the laudable organist Karolina Juodelytė, in addition, to present these three important and necessary scores.

Jonathan Woolf

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