REPERTOIRE. Homage to Mozart

2006 rolls on with a thunderous outburst of Mozart's anniversary events. It is almost alarming that such a powerful tutti of concerts, premieres and dedications to Mozart may become a bit of an excess, all the more that we still have the whole year of Mozart in store!

Lithuanian works inspired by Mozart's music are not numerous. Neither are many from other countries. Probably the composers trying to break the frequently disturbed peace of the Austrian genius feel ill at ease. The world of commerce has appropriated Mozart's name as a kind of trademark: his profile is looking at us from candy wraps with a reproach: he would prefer to live in the depths of intellectual consciousness rather than on the shelves of a supermarket. Or?

In the past, Mozart's work used to inspire reverence (Suite No. 4 "Mozartiana" by Tchaikovsky); today Mozart seems to provoke composers into a playful and ironic dialogue (Moz-Art, Moz-Art à la Haydn by Alfred Schnittke, MozART Games by Arvydas Malcys.

One of the most recent compositions by Vytautas Barkauskas, Opus 126 in Es (2005), may be also called a respectful reverence to Mozart. Composed on commission from the "Amadeus" festival (Geneva), it was performed for the first time by the Camerata Salzburg. The piece was also part of the Euroradio concert programme "Dedication to Mozart" that took place on February 4, 2006, at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Hall (performed by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra under Vytautas Lukočius). 126 is the opus number on the list of Barkauskas' works. E flat major is the key of Mozart's unfinished cantata Dir, Seele des Weltalls performed at the concert in Geneva.

In the composer's words, Opus 126 in Es is a symbolic, somewhat mysterious toccamento (i.e. touch) of Mozart's music. As you listen to the brisk, impressively undulating passages, clear, uncomplicated diatonic consonances and sharp contrasts, you can feel the composer's wish to respond to Mozart's work with harmonious sounds, compatible with the sounds of the genius, which have just reverberated in the same space. Incidentally, the "Amadeus" festival suggested that Barkauskas should continue the unfinished cantata by Mozart, but the composer refused saying that he did not want to do worse than Mozart, but he was not able to do better either...

Another fruit of the Lithuanian Mozartiana - Lacrimosa for mixed choir by Mindaugas Urbaitis - brings us back to 1991, when the world commemorated the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. Another sad inspiration of the composer was the gory events of January 13th in Vilnius, the last attempts of the Soviet army to suppress Lithuania's struggle for freedom. Then Urbaitis' composition remained unfinished, and the composer took it up again in 1994.

Lacrimosa was composed to the text of the last stanza of the Dies irae sequence. Urbaitis develops a quietly pulsating diatonic flow of music using his favourite minimalist means: short and simple motifs and shifts of repetitive sequences. At the end of this glimmering recurrent pattern, Mozart's Lacrimosa comes through almost in its authentic form, ending where death stopped Mozart's hand. It is a gentle and cautious touch of Mozart's music.

The year 1991 inspired one more Lithuanian reflection on Mozart - Mozartsommer 1991 for flute, violin, viola and harpsichord by Onutė Narbutaitė. Without any thought in advance, this composition became the first part of her dialogues with the composers of the past. In 1997, it was continued by Winterserenade based on the motifs from Schubert's song Good Night, and, in 1999, by Autumn Ritornello. Hommage à Fryderyk. The composer has mentioned that she hopes to return to this seasonal cycle and compose a piece of spring music, dedicated to Bach. "My relation with traditions has never been conflicting. Having entered the world of music, if I wanted to oppose something, it was certain forms of the dictate of contemporary music, which aroused quite many inhibitions in composers," Narbutaitė said. The traces of traditions and the lost worlds are revived in Narbutaitė's music as an expression of her reflections, the realisation of herself and her time in history, as well as the longing for childhood feelings, colours, smells and sounds.

While composing Mozartsommer 1991, she looked through Mozart's scores (symphonies, quartets, The Magic Flute, Requiem etc.), searching for characteristic motifs, harmonic shifts and fragments of cadences, which, like the most loyal guards of Mozart's style, travel from one work to another, from one page of the score to the next. The composer chose a light pointillistic texture, and, in Narbutaitė's words, the piece is a totally authentic mosaic of Mozart's sounds. In fact, this mosaic is the world of Mozart's sounds created anew by the composer and reminiscent of theatre. Not only because the flute motifs awaken the optimism of Papageno from The Magic Flute, and the patches of harpsichord cadences - allusions to recitatives. This kind of blending of reality and fantasy, longing for fulfilment and the sense of halting time can be experienced only in theatre. Or in dreams.

One of the most recent dedications to Mozart, Vidmantas Bartulis' Mozart's Birthday, will receive its premiere at the Pažaislis Festival on September 2, 2006. Bartulis: "The idea behind this work is to conclude the Pažaislis Festival with the celebration of Mozart's anniversary by inviting various characters from his works to this cheerful party. I came up with a fictional plot, assembled as a collage of Mozart's works, resolving in a happy ending."

© Jūratė Katinaitė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 12


Onutė Narbutaitė.
Mozartsommer 1991 for flute, violin, viola, harpsichord 9'
Mindaugas Urbaitis. Lacrimosa (1991-1994) for mixed choir 6'
Vytautas Barkauskas. Opus 126 in Es (2005) for string orchestra 10'
Arvydas Malcys. MozART Games (2005) 1222-2200-perc-str 10'