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Monday, March 28, 2005
Osvaldas Balakauskas: Requiem

(In memoriam of Stasys Lozoraitis)
Judita Leitaite
Vilnius Municipal Choir,
Orchestra of Vilnius (et al)
Donatas Karkus


Osvalsas Balakauskas is one of the foremost leaders of Lithuanian contemporary music composition. He is also a national icon having served as the Lithuanian ambassador to France, Portugal and Spain. Balakauskas developed his compositional skills in the Kiev Conservatory where he decidedly took a more non-traditionalist and progressive approach to composition as opposed to the more traditional Russian school bending towards Prokofiev and Shostakovich, which was accepted and popular at the time there. In his homeland he is thought to be more of a cosmopolitan Eurocentric composer, eschewing the folk music infused compositional tradition, which is favored there. But in listening to this Requiem he has managed to integrate a good deal of folk music sensibilities into the work. And it is not just about that. It is also as eclectic as say Oliver Messiaen.

The Requiem is scored for chamber orchestra, soloist; Judita Leitaite, and choir. At a listening you may make the association of the orchestral shadings and tonal modality with another famous Baltic State composer, Arvo Part, and you would be right to. There is the ancient/modern mystical Gregorian chant language that is a trademark of Partís. (A version of the Arvo Part Requiem is also recorded on the Naxos label). But, For what itís worth, Balakauskas' orchestration and use of vocal timbre is more colorfully open and eclectic. This use of a wide tonal and instrumental palate also creates a range of emotion and some spiritual depth that winds through the 12 segments. Interestingly though, its overall character is rather light and upbeat, uncharacteristically so for a requiem. Some of the segments like #5; Recordare, are sparse folk melodies and their accompaniment has a kind of essence of the Renaissance. #10; The Benedictus uses a rhythmically and melodically complex counterpoint of entwined instruments and voices in a lively up-tempo rondo like form. At times, as in #11; Lacrymosa, his style and unique language, which he calls dodekatonika-his own 12 tone system-can become a bit ponderous and weighty in that the mechanics of composition overshadow the content. But it can also be interesting to see the inner syntax of the composerís language, at times.

Overall, if you are looking music by a fairly obscure Lithuanian composer and a somewhat fresh, even light, take on an old form then give this a spin on the old CD player. Itís not an incredibly deep and awe inspiring composition as requiems go but the choir, orchestra and soloist deliver a professional and engaging quality performance.

 



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