Songs of Sunset and Dawn
An encounter between two wholly different sounds: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto, which evokes an image of a post-biological society with not only artificial intelligence, but also artificial forms of life with their own culture and history. Then, in exciting contrast, Raminta Šerkšnytė’s fusion of thriving neo-romantic sounds and playfully exploratory motifs and techniques in Songs of Sunset and Dawn, a composition that sets music to the writings of the Indian and Bengali poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore.
The Baltic Sea Festival showcases two different aspects of the Lituanian composer Raminta Šerkšnytė: a wholly new choral piece commissioned for the festival’s tribute to Eric Ericson as well as this dramatic work for orchestra, choir and solo singers. However, the soubriquet ’cantata’ is something that the composer herself opposes. She feels that it is too easily associated with exaggerated and contrived drama. In Songs of Sunset and Dawn, which is nevertheless called an ’oratorio cantata’, she has intentionally strived towards the typical narrative format. ”In the Western tradition, music, including instrumental music, often wanted to tell stories. In my new oratorio, even though the genre implies a narrative, I want rather to express the experiences and states of mind that the writings inspire.”
In 1913, writer and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. Early on, his poetic ability and beautiful expression, particularly in his native Bengali, made him famous in India and elsewhere. For Šerkšnytė’s piece, selected writings have been translated into Lithuanian. Other connections to the oriental tradition are clear in the way that each of the three movements are linked to a particular time of day: evening, night and morning.
The highly esteemed Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem has inspired many a writer and artist, including the second movement of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto, which is a homage to the author. “I imagined a post-biological culture, where the cybernetic systems suddenly develop an existential need of folklore.” The movement, in Salonen’s own words, is music composed by artificial intelligence and twittering robot birds. The entire concerto is dramatic and brilliant and also includes an étude for the left hand, perhaps inspired by one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein and the many works written for him.
The relationship between the mechanical and the organic is a recurring theme in Salonen’s compositions and he has said himself that ”musical expression is bodily expression; it all comes out of the body”. Andrius Žlaby’s empathic, physical playing are definitely well-suited for realizing Salonen’s vision.
The Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1940 as the Vilnius City Symphony Orchestra and was given its current name fifty years later, in connection with the country’s newly won independence. The orchestra performs at the Philharmonic in Vilnius and regularly tours the country, as well as Europe and Asia. They have performed at Musikverein in Vienna, the Barbican Centre in London, Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Suntory Hall in Tokyo, among other venues. The orchestra includes most of the Lithuanian orchestral legacy in their repertoire, as well as all the great symphonic works and oratorios. They have made recordings on several labels, including Marco Polo, Melodiya, Ella Records and Naxos.
The Swedish Radio Choir is like a leading mountaineer in the world of music. The choir’s chief conductor Peter Dijkstra has described the ensemble as “the group that leaves base camp first and stakes out the course for others to follow.” Three hundred years of Swedish a cappella tradition, combined with an ambitious and culturally diverse repertoire with some of the world’s finest conductors, has established the Swedish Radio Choir as one of the foremost ensembles of its kind. The 32 professional singers are as equally at home in completely new music by today’s most exciting composers as they are in classic favourites from the rich international treasure trove. Through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts and website the choir not only reaches concert audiences but also radio listeners everywhere.
Lithuanian pianist Andrius Žlabys has been praised for his virtuosity, his hypnotic playing and his adventurous as well as discerning musical interpretations. Since his debut at the Salzburg Festival in 2012 with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, he has given celebrated performances around Europe, the US and Asia, as well as repeated tours with violinist Gidon Kremer. His recording of George Enescu’s Piano Quintet with Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica was nominated for a Grammy in 2003. Žlabys has performed at Royal Concergebouw in Amsterdam, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Suntory Hall in Tokyo and at Musikverein in Vienna.
Soprano Lina Dambrauskaitė from Lithuania received several awards and scholarships when she was still a student and she has toured Europe and Asia with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, with whom she has performed several concerts. She has also performed with the country’s other great orchestras. She has performed in premières of operas such as Geros Dienos by Lina Lapelytė and Julius Juzeliūna’s Žaidimas. As a concert singer, she has sung great oratorios such as Bach’s St John Passion and Schubert’s Mass no. 6 in E flat major as well as Mahler’s Symphony no. 4. Her operatic roles include Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen, Yniold in Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande and the title role in Handel’s Semele.
Lithuanian mezzo soprano, Justina Gringytė, has been celebrated for her brilliant technique and interpretational skills. In 2015, she received the distinction Young Singer of the Year by the International Opera Awards. The year before, her recording of Rachmaninov songs with pianist Iain Burnside was nominated for a Gramophone Award. Her performances include Georges Bizet’s Carmen in Lissabon and Vilnius, La forza del destino by Verdi at the Welsh National Opera and Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Lithuanian National Opera. As a concert singer, she performs romantic concerts as well as major works such as Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9, Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, Mahler’s Symphony no. 8 and Verdi’s Requiem.
Lithuanian tenor Edgaras Montvidas had his breakthrough after several seasons with the Royal Opera House in London and the Frankfurt Opera in roles such as Alfredo in La traviata, Fenton in Falstaff, Laertes in Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, Tamino in The Magic Flute and Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth. More recently, he was celebrated for his Lensky in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Alfred in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus as well as for his concert productions of Szymanowski’s King Roger and Verdi’s Requiem. He has performed with Berliner Philharmoniker, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra among others, as well as participating in the BBC Proms and numerous international music festivals.
Concert length: 1 h 35 min incl. intermission
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s participation has been cancelled
Raimundas Juzuitis’s participation has been cancelled
FESTIVAL OFFER (Östersjöklippet)
With the Baltic Sea Festival Offer (Östersjöklippet), you get three different levels at a discount – 10, 15 and 20% off the regular fare depending on whether you buy three, four or five different concerts at the same time.