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 established in 1940 by composer, conductor and pianist Balys Dvarionas. Since the autumn of 2015, Modestas Pitrėnas has been its Artistic Director and Chief Conductor. Robertas Šervenikas is the orchestra’s second conductor and Juozas Domarkas, who led the orchestra between 1964 and 2015, is Honorary Conductor.
The orchestra presents around 50 concerts annually in the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Hall as well as on other stages in Lithuania and abroad in Europe, Japan, South America and South Korea. The orchestra has performed in prominent venues such as Vienna’s Musikverein, Barbican Centre in London, Berwaldhallen in Stockholm, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and Suntory Hall in Tokyo.
Over the years, the orchestra has been conducted by prominent guest conductors such as Mstislav Rostropoich, Krzysztof Penderecki, Kurt Masur, Neeme Järvi and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. Famous soloists appearing with the orchestra include Monserrat Caballé, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky and Yuri Bashmet. The basis of the orchestra’s repertoire is the great oratorios and symphonies as well as contemporary works, particularly those of Lithuanian composers like Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Onutė Narbutaitė, Raminta Šerkšnytė as well as works by many young composers.
For more than 90 years, the Swedish Radio Choir has contributed to the development of the Swedish a cappella tradition. Under the leadership of legendary conductor Eric Ericson, the choir earned great international renown. It is still hailed as one of the best choirs in the world. The choir members’ ability to switch between powerful solo performances and seamlessly integrating themselves in the ensemble creates a unique and dynamic instrument praised by critics and music lovers alike, as well as by the many guest conductors who explore and challenge the choir’s possibilities.
Permanent home of the Swedish Radio Choir since 1979 is Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall. In addition to the seated audience, the choir reaches millions of listeners on the radio and the web through Klassiska konserten i P2. Several concerts are also broadcast and streamed on Berwaldhallen Play, offering the audience more opportunities to come as close as possible to one of the world’s top choirs.
With the 2020–2021 season, Kaspars Putniņš begins his tenure as the tenth Music Director of the Swedish Radio Choir. Since January 2019, Marc Korovitch is the choirmaster of the Swedish Radio Choir with responsibility for the ensemble’s continued artistic development. Two of the orchestra’s former Music Directors, Tõnu Kaljuste and Peter Dijkstra, were appointed Conductors Laureate in November 2019. Both maintain a close relationship with the choir and make regular guest appearances.
The Swedish Radio Choir was founded the same year as the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and the choir had its first concert in May 1925. Right from the start, the choir had high ambitions with a conscious aim to perform contemporary music.
Giedrė Šlekytė is an internationally engaged conductor who has worked with orchestras such as Bruckner Orchester Linz, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Lithanian National Symphony Orchestra. She has conducted several of Sweden’s foremost orchetras such as the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
She was 1st Kapellmeister at Stadttheater Klagenfurt 2016–2018 where she was lauded for productions of operas such as La Traviata, Don Giovanni and The Abduction from the Seraglio. For the 2019–2020 season, she is engaged to do Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid’s Tale at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore at Oper Leipzig and Le Nozze di Figaro at the Lithuanian National Opera in Vilnius. In 2015, she was a prize winner of the International Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen. She has also been nominated for the Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award and as Newcomer of the Year at the International Opera Awards.
Her first appearance in Berwaldhallen was during 2018’s Baltic Sea Festival where she conducted, among other works, Raminta Šerkšnytė’s oratorio Songs of Sunset and Dawn.
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.