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Žibuoklė Martinaitytė: Ex Tenebris Lux etc

Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Karolis Variakojis et al (Ondine)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Žibuoklė Martinaitytė
Ex tenebris lux; Nunc fluens. Nunc stans*; Sielunmaisema**
*Pavel Giunter (percussion), **Rokas Vaitkevičius (cello); Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Karolis Variakojis
Ondine ODE 1403-2   75:16 mins

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‘To be a composer means not only using one’s brain,’ Lithuanian composer Žibuoklė Martinaitytė once noted. Her scores similarly appeal to something beyond the immediately cerebral, creating vast shimmering soundscapes that lead the mind somewhere dreamlike and seem to speak directly to the body’s senses in arresting and unexpected ways.

Martinaitytė grew up during the last years of Lithuania’s enforced incorporation into the USSR. Her music is in part informed by the ‘holy minimalism’ of Pärt and Górecki, but seems also to conjure something of the glistening, nature-driven music of John Luther Adams. This disc marks the second recording from Ondine of Martinaitytė’s music and features three recent works for string orchestra, all composed since the onset of the pandemic.

The two opening works Nunc fluens. Nunc stans (which also features percussion) and Ex tenebris lux explore ideas of time and change, conveying gradual shifts in mood through subtle fluctuations in musical colour and texture. There follows the substantial four-movement work Sielunmaisema. Each of the work’s movements is named after a season, while the title itself draws on a Finnish word for ‘soul-landscape, a particular place that a person carries deep in the heart and returns to often in memory’. Thus each movement is a ‘sonic portrait of the composer’s internal responses to the four seasons’, from the brittle and percussive rigour of ‘Winter’ to the humming, drone-like warmth of ‘Summer’. Performed with great flair by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, this excellent disc offers a welcome introduction to Martinaitytė’s compelling and transporting music.

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Kate Wakeling