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COMPOSERS: Barkauskas
ALBUM TITLE: Barkauskas
WORKS: Duo Concertante; Jeux
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin), Nobuko Imai (viola); Lithuanian National SO; Vilnius Festival Orchestra/Robertas Servenikas
Lithuania’s leading composer, Vytautas Barkauskas (b1931), is chiefly celebrated in the West for his 1967 solo violin Partita, a sequence of five microcosms which throws everything into the melting pot from blues and rhumba to Lithuanian folksong and dodecaphony. Philippe Graffin, recorded live in 2003, may not quite equal the searing intensity and volubility of Gidon Kremer’s legendary 1971 LP account for Melodiya (still awaiting transfer to CD), although rarely has the Partita’s coruscating changeability sounded so radiantly beguiling.


Barkauskas composed Jeux 36 years later, a 20-minute, multi-sectional concerto-in-all-but-name, especially for Graffin. Here the Frenchman’s sensuous, golden sound, quicksilver reflexes and heightened sensitivity to colour really come into their own as wave upon wave of ear-tweaking textures and timbres roll past the listener, the occasional brilliance of the writing tempered by a palpable sense of sadness and regret. The solo viola Monologues inspire the work’s dedicatee, Nabuko Imai, to give of her very best, voicing the music’s hauntingly introspective gestures with a transfixing improvisatory freedom.


The double concerto offsets Bartók-like moto perpetuos of hurtling momentum with gentle music of nostalgic serenity, that (suitably enough, given the soloists’ nationalities) combines Japanese fastidiousness with French sensuality. It’s a heady brew, caught in atmospheric sound. Julian Haylock