Posts Tagged ‘Ensemble’

Music Information Centre Lithuania – MICL CD 089

Christopher Nosnibor

A retrospective collection is perhaps the most instructive place to begin when being introduced to the work of a late artist with a substantial body of work to their name. And so it was that Fonogramatika, 26-track collection culled from seven projects from between 1970 and 1981 featuring the work of Lithuanian composer Antanas Rekašius (1928-2003), as performed by the six-piece Apartment House ensemble came into my possession for review. My first contact with a composer clearly of some renown, but of whom I had absolutely no prior knowledge. A small amount of research revealed the composer is believed to have committed suicide, aged 75, after suffering poverty and depression.

There’s nothing depressive about the quirky music on offer here: indeed, there are humourous touches at every turn in Rekašius’ lively, unconventional and often quite audacious musical works.

Anton Lukoszevieze’s substantial liner notes (subtitled ‘Unsettling Scores and Unstable Tendencies’) are informative, and help to provide some kind of handle on Rekašius’ work, but needless to say it was extracting the disc from the incredibly heavy-duty and immaculately-presented four-way gatefold sleeve (really, the packaging super, and you really can feel the quality) and actually hearing the music therein which proved more instructive.

Rekašius’ style is often informed by jazz, but with a keen ear for atmosphere and experimentation, using the instrumentation of a chamber orchestra to create a range of effects. There’s a fluidity to the compositions, and a certain deftness which makes for rapid and often unexpected transitions from sparse, stark atmospherics to wild brass. The strings howl and mew, bend and bow, and Rekašius makes a trademark of combining dissonance and subtle melody. In fact, it’s the fact that there are strong, albeit brief, passages of melody, and a ken for swinging rhythms and off-kilter repetitions that render the works so beguiling: the listener can marvel at the scope and style of the compositions, the apparent randomness and the dynamics which are worked into the pieces, because yes, it is all very clever. But equally, it’s possible to simply enjoy the music.

Often, the music is jarring, but Rekašius invariably pulls back from the brink of spine-jangling awkwardness with cadent musical flourishes which are pure joy. Wild cacophonies, lumbering menace, twisted folk fiddle and notes that simply sound ‘wrong’ all contrive to keep the listener alert and entertained. ‘Atonic I’ (the individual tracks on each album are known by number only, with the exception of those from Phonogram) evokes the soundtracks of old, silent movies. If anything, Fonogramatika demonstrates just how able Rekašius was at turning his hand to different styles and making them work, while at the same time adding his own idiosyncratic stamps to them. The musicianship of the Apartment House players shouldn’t be underestimated, by any means: they play with nuance, intuition, and passion.

It’s now 13 years since Rekašius’ death. While his work has been performed in the United States, Italy, France, Finland, Sweden, Germany and Hungary, as well as Lithuania and Russia during his lifetime, his substantial output, which includes nine symphonies, 12 ballets, seven concertos and an opera-oratorio, Rekašius’ legacy seems rather limited in most territories. Perhaps the release of Fonogramatika will go some way toward addressing this, and earning Antanas Rekašius wider posthumous recognition.

 

Rekasius

 

Apartment House Online

ARTEksounds – ART003

Christopher Nosnibor

The extensive liner notes describe Glowicka’s latest release as an album 400 years in the making. This isn’t a literal statement, but a reflection on the evolution and reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s work over the course of the time since it was first written. It is, undoubtedly, testament to the way in which Shakespeare so adeptly tapped into the many facets of the human condition that his work still resonates today. In short, his work speaks through the ages and transcends time.

So what of Katarina Glowicka’s engagement with his sonnet cycle, first published in 1609 and the subject of intense debate in academic circles even now, long after a consensus has been reached over many of their deeper meanings? Seven Sonnets gathers two sessions from a decade apart, written and performed by Katarina Glowicka with Aaron Zlotnik and Rubens Quartet. Both combine string arrangements with Glowicka’s unconventional electronic soundscapes and quite remarkable vocals.

I’m not about to get bogged down in the technicalities of the sonnet form, the differences between the Petrarchan, Spencerian and Shakespearean sonnet here. Suffice it to say that a selection of Shakespeare’s 14-line verses provide the basis for the lyrical content of the pieces here, but musically, the compositions are far less strict.

‘Summers Day (1999) features three pieces, which are comparatively concise, but still manifest as quite organic, freeform musical works. ‘My eye hath played the painter’, drawing on Sonnet XXIV and Sonnet XXVII and grappling with a classic Elizabethan sonnet trope of the torment of love, is delicate, the trilling operatic vocal soaring heavenwards over minimalist strings.

The three pieces slide into one another, culminating in the dolorous ‘My love is strengthened’, on which the strings weep and wail, swoon and sway. Glowicka forges a rarefied spiritual atmosphere with her choral delivery.

The four ‘Spring’s day’ pieces are longer, with ‘When my love swears’ speaking of unconditional love over a fractured musical backing before the 10-minute ‘Love is too young’, which transitions through passages of soft ambience to pastoral strings laces with melancholy and flickers of dissonance.

‘Sweet love’ builds subtle drama, Glowicka skipping lightly through Sonnet LVI, before ‘All Naked’, a stripped-back audiowork which is spun around Sonnet XXVI concludes the album, leaving the listener feeling… how precisely does the listener feel? The power of any work lies not in the direct message it conveys, but in the way it resonates with each individual who engages with said work. Just as Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets stir different emotional responses in each person, connecting with different life experiences, so Glowicka’s Seven Sonnets is and album which does not require a critic to steer a particular line of engagement. It resonates on a uniquely personal, individual level.

 

Glowicka - Seven

 

Glowicka Online