Vasks, Balakauskas & Narbutaite, Urbaitis, Juozapaitis, Vasks, Kutavicius, Táár & Rekasius

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COMPOSERS: Balakauskas & Narbutaite,Juozapaitis,Kutavicius,Táár & Rekasius,Urbaitis,Vasks
LABELS: Finlandia
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Baltic Works for String Orchestra
WORKS: Vol. 1: Music by Vasks, Balakauskas & Narbutaite
PERFORMER: Ostrobothnian CO/Juha Kangas
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-97892-2/97893-2 DDD

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Though recent interest in Peteris Vasks means that this two-disc collection is not all music from an undiscovered country, there’s plenty to explore among its roster of previously unknown names. Some listeners will already be familiar with the smooth elegiacs of Cantabile, one of two pieces by Vasks himself. The other, the Symphony for Strings, presents the ‘voices’ of stillness, of life and of conscience in a three-movement sequence that extends his expressive range within an essentially static idiom. The oldest composer here is Antanas Rekasius (b.1928); his Music for Strings recalls Schnittke in its archaic chorales silenced by abrasive cluster chords. Pieces by other senior figures, Bronius Kutavicius and Osvaldas Balakauskas, sound indefinite in style, but for the younger composers, the faith minimalism of Arvo Pärt is clearly a beacon, not least for Mindaugas Urbaitis (b.1952) in his Lithuanian Folk Music. The icy tentacles of melody slowly detaching themselves from glacial string harmonics in Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Insula deserta, and the Tippett-meets-John Adams swirl of Jurgis Juozapaitis’s Perpetuum mobile, are the most representative offerings from this group. Overall, the performances carry conviction and have a raw freshness of sound that mirrors the quality of unpurged artistic innocence which is the chief fascination of this school.

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Nicholas Williams