Lyndon-Gee directs vivid performance of Narbutaitė’s orchestral works

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COMPOSERS: Narbutaitė
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Narbutaitė
WORKS: La barca; No yesterday, no tomorrow (kein gestern, kein morgen); riverbank – river – symphony (krantas upe simfonija)
PERFORMER: Jovita Vaškevičiūtė (mezzo-soprano), Tomas Pavilionis (tenor); Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra/ Christopher Lyndon-Gee
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573618

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Imagine the soundtrack for 2001: A Space Odyssey– principally Richard Strauss and György Ligeti – whisked up to create a luscious, richly flavoured musical soundscape. That, approximately, is how the music of Lithuanian Onutė Narbutaitė (b1956) sounds. A poet and painter as well as a composer, her work is visceral and evocative rather than ‘pure’ and abstract.

La barca (2005) seems reminiscent of a Walton symphony with its rhythms dissolved, its harmonic world mingled with Lutosławski’s more explorative orchestration. No yesterday, no tomorrow is a 27-minute concert extract from Narbutaite’s 2012 opera Cornet, based on a prose poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. Dreamy and evocative, its chamber music-like textures include several apparent quotations (one sounding rather disconcertingly like a theme from Gabriel Yared’s English Patient). Mezzo Jovita Vaškevičiūte and tenor Tomas Pavilionis convey the slow- burn longing of its protagonists.

Narbutaite’s fourth symphony, riverbank – river – symphony (2007), starts with low thuds, like a distant explosion, then builds from a single note variously orchestrated (shades of Beethoven’s Ninth?) before blurring into a welter of detail out of which motifs gradually gain focus. 

All three works, captured in atmospheric sound, are vividly performed by the Lithuanian Orchestra under Christopher Lyndon-Gee. 

Daniel Jaffé