Midsummer Song; De profundis; Songs of Sunset and Dawn*
*Jauna Muzika Choir; Kremerata Baltica/Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla; *Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra/Giedrė Šlekytė
DG 483 7761 56:01 mins, plus DVD
Raminta Šerkšnytė’s music is free-flowing in its expression, form and range, offering moments of exquisite beauty and quasi mysticism. The Lithuanian composer (b1975) subtly references her home country’s political unshackling, merging traditional Baltic sounds with influences from Asia and Western Europe. This can be heard in Songs of Sunset and Dawn (2007), which draws on an Indian raga-like improvisatory structure. Despite the title, the work is actually an oratorio, performed here by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra and the Vilnius Municipal Choir, under Giedrė Šlekytė. The three movements grow in texture and energy, echoing the transition from night to morning, with avian-like woodwind twittering.
The natural world is also the inspiration behind the single-movement Midsummer Song (2009), which suggests the euphoria of the summer solstice through shimmering high-pitched melodies and urgent growling bass. Both this work and the restless De profundis (1998) are played by Kremerata Baltica, the brilliant Baltic chamber orchestra founded by Gidon Kremer, conducted by Šerkšnytė’s compatriot, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. While we should be careful to avoid a siloed approach to repertoire, there is something magical about hearing contemporary Lithuanian music performed by local experts.
The accompanying film Going for the Impossible – A Portrait follows Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla in 2016 when she joined the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as musical director. Filmed largely in German (with various subtitles available), the documentary reveals Gražinytė-Tyla as a highly informed and empathetic conductor who ‘aims to advise, rather than conquer’.