Osvaldas Balakauskas: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5

Osvaldas Balakauskas: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5

by Juozas Domarkas
     
 

Osvaldas Balakauskas is a Lithuanian composer who is five years younger than Vytautas Landsbergis, and, like him, has worked extensively in Lithuanian political affairs since the country was granted freedom from the Soviet Union in 1990. Somehow despite holding down the position of diplomat from Lithuania to various nations,See more details below

Overview

Osvaldas Balakauskas is a Lithuanian composer who is five years younger than Vytautas Landsbergis, and, like him, has worked extensively in Lithuanian political affairs since the country was granted freedom from the Soviet Union in 1990. Somehow despite holding down the position of diplomat from Lithuania to various nations, Balakauskas managed to find the time to continue working as a composer; he is now retired from politics and teaches composition at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater in Vilnius. Although he studied music with Boris Lyatoshinsky at the Moscow Conservatory in the 1960s, nothing could be further from the sound of socialist realism than Naxos' Osvaldas Balakauskas: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5, nor does it sound like the Penderecki and Lutoslawski works associated with that era. Balakauskas has written, "During the Soviet era, I was much more modern. At that time, modernism was like taking a stand against the Soviet regime, it was like demonstrating for spiritual freedom. Now I'm returning to a more natural point of view regarding music and the listener." Osvaldas Balakauskas: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5 demonstrates that this isn't just window dressing on Balakauskas' part; it is very immediate and appealing work. The two works are symphonies composed in 1998 and 2001, respectively. The subtitles employed in the "Symphony No. 4" -- "Octa," "Hendeca," and "Deca" -- refer to the number of pitches in the scales used for each movement. "Octa" opens with a beautiful, very slowly developing section that becomes Mahlerian in the middle and more violent toward the end, whereas "Hendeca" has a strangely Ivesian texture shot through with syncopated figures reminiscent of Gershwin. The Symphony No. 5 is similar in tone to the previous symphony, although somewhat richer in texture and more rumbustious in spots. The opening movement may remind some of Messiaen with its sense of growing, unrelieved tension, and the second introduces bluesy mannerisms that evoke the specter of Leonard Bernstein. Ironically, the music of this former politician from a lately freed Baltic state sounds more "American" than, say, the music of John Adams. However, Balakauskas seems also to have inherited something of the bloodline extending from Lithuania's greatest composer, Mikalojus Ciurlionis, as he is successful in working out pieces that seem longer than they really are. Conductor Juozas Domarkas is one of the most distinguished figures in Lithuanian music, and he does an excellent job of maintaining an overall shape to Balakauskas' symphonies that works. Nonetheless, one wonders what mainstream, top-flight conductors such as Simon Rattle or Paavo Järvi could do with these pieces. The performance and recording are slightly less than ideal -- sometimes the strings sound like an unmade bed looks when they skirt off into a multiplicity of divisi parts, and the recording, made at National Philharmonic Hall in Vilnius, is warm but a little dense and crowded. This is terrific though; contemporary music that is made to be experienced, embraced, and enjoyed.

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/15/2005
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0747313260522
Rank:
290984

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Symphony No. 4  - Osvaldas Balakauskas  - Juozas Domarkas  -  Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra Vilnius  - Daiva Parulskiene
  2. Symphony No. 5  - Osvaldas Balakauskas  - Juozas Domarkas  -  Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra Vilnius  - Daiva Parulskiene  - Igor Kramarev  - Romualdas Staskus

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