ALGIRDAS MARTINAITIS (b.1950): The Three M’Art Comedy Seasons for Violin and String Orchestra, Artizarra for String Orchestra and Harpsichord, Serenade for Mistress Europe for String Orchestra, Birds of Eden for String Orchestra, Valse triste for Soprano and String Orchestra, Chant de la Lointaine for Soprano, String Orchestra and Piano.

Catalogue Number: 01X056

Label: Ondine

Reference: ODE 1398-2

Format: CD

Price: $16.98

Description: Due to its location, Lithuania has received, or had forced upon it, influences from all over the map, and its cultural history is extremely complicated. Martinaitis has responded to this with an eclectic idiom which elevates irony, satire, and sarcasm to an art form as few other composers have done, within a disarmingly approachable and enjoyable idiom. As the booklet notes sum it up, his music "dances between a serene beauty and sincerity before collapsing into an almost sarcastic nihilism." (Respectfully, there’s nothing "almost" about it.) "Serenade for Mistress Europe" is an early example of this unique perspective. A thorough - and at times beautiful - examination of European music history as viewed from a Lithuanian standpoint, it constantly pivots to a deliciously skewed black comedy, lampooning those same sacred traditions. The piece begins with a series of detached perfect cadences - which recur in a sequence of mindlessly looped Baroque gestures a few minutes later - by way of an introduction. The composer takes an almost scattershot approach to thumbing his nose at any European tradition that comes over the horizon; one can imagine him declaring over the final bars, Brahms-like: "If there is anyone here whom I have forgotten to insult, I apologise!". Mahler, Beethoven, Strauss, a priceless send-up of Ravel's notorious Bolero, even the Marseillaise, to name a handful of the most obvious references, get this treatment, and the piece ends in a cacophony of out of tune amateur performance practice (or is it the imposition of microtonal modernism on undeserving tonal material?). The earliest works here - Antizarra (2001) and especially "Birds of Eden" (1981, reworked 2016) - are influenced by minimalism, the first bearing a more than passing resemblance to Górecki's harpsichord concerto, the latter (originally for four electric cellos - staples of heavy metal rock in neighbouring Finland, let us remember) possessing an unruly propulsive energy that suggests the iconoclasm of both minimalism and rock. "The Three M‘art Comedy Seasons" of 2014, continue the composer’s tradition of elegant satire, suggesting that the passage of time has only sharpened the barbs of his musical wit, while refining its delivery to enhance its capacity to startle and unsettle the listener. This is an immensely appealing, three-movement violin concerto full of lively appeal. Again, the music is full of references, as implied by the movement titles: Commedia Dell’arte Seasons; Ballet-Comedy Seasons, and La Caccia Comedy Seasons. Allusions to Vivaldi abound, including one quotation like a perfectly delivered punchline toward the end of the finale, but also to Tchaikovsky and other famous ballet scores in the middle movement, which eventually collapses into cacophonous chaos, the dancers apparently falling over each other with inebriated abandon. It should be said, though, that as much fun as the humour is - and it is, a lot - the piece is an infectiously appealing delight in purely musical terms. The two vocal works, the most recent here (2014 and 2020) find the composer confronting his fractured artistic heritage and baring his soul - usually safely concealed behind an impenetrable thicket of razor-thorned sarcasm - in heartbreaking, utterly sincere settings of Oscar Milosz (distant Lithuanian relative of the internationally renowned Czesław), fragile, tragic, and emotionally numb. French-English texts. Rūta Lipinaitytė (violin), Asta Krikščiūnaitė (soprano), Daumantas Slipkus (keyboards), St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra; Modestas Barkauskas.

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