Kutavicius, Narbutaite, Merkelys, Balakauskas & Urbaitis

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COMPOSERS: Balakauskas & Urbaitis,Kutavicius,Merkelys,Narbutaite
ALBUM TITLE: Lithuanian Chamber Music 1991-2001
WORKS: Works by Kutavicius, Narbutaite, Merkelys, Balakauskas & Urbaitis
PERFORMER: Carsten Hustedt (flute), Ingrida Armonaite (violin), Audrone Psibilskiene (viola), Ute Stoecklin (piano)
Not knowing the first thing about Lithuanian music, I approached this thinking it would show the same stylistic pluralism you find everywhere these days. And I hoped there might be a special energy, an optimism that comes from recovering national liberty. What I actually discovered was a depressing uniformity of tone. That’s partly the fault of the medium, of course. It is difficult to conjure much variety from violin, viola and flute (plus, in one piece, a piano). Even so, I never expected to find such a paucity of invention, and a reliance on little circling ostinati and endlessly prolonged pedal-points to achieve any continuity. Or the obsession with memory. The two pieces by Narbutaite recycle fragments of Schubert and Mozart, Urbaitis’s Der Fall Wagner plays with Tristan and Lohengrin. In both cases what was vigorous becomes wispy and thin, like a relic that’s almost disintegrated. The same drooping melancholy afflicts all the pieces. The baleful influence of late Shostakovich, with its masochistic thinness of texture, seemed to be everywhere. As a musical experience it was grim, but it was a chastening lesson in what more than half a century of occupation can do to a country’s soul. Ivan Hewett