Loreta Narvilaitė: Spreading the Change

The career of composer Loreta Narvilaitė appears to deny the rule prevalent in Lithuania: the artists in leading administrative positions often abandon the creative work. This kind of change, however, is not a threat to Loreta Narvilaitė, one of the most prominent female composers in Klaipėda, the port town on the Baltic coast. Besides her teaching at the Stasys Šimkus Conservatoire, her duties at the Klaipėda Concert Hall (where she holds the deputy director’s position) and the three festivals that she organizes there, she is also constantly quenching her thirst for premieres. This time it is her latest work for mezzo-soprano and string orchestra titled There Is Someone Who Wishes You Well (2007), coming up on the 30th of May at the Klaipėda Concert Hall.

photo: Arūnas Baltėnas / LMIPC

During her visit at the Visby International Centre for Composers, Gotland, Loreta Narvilaitė discovered the poetry of Gustaf Larsson, the 20th century Swedish antiquarian and poet who wrote in the ancient language of Gotland. The composer chose two English translations of his poems to be the basis of her new work. According to the author, this piece is like a metaphor for a journey over the stormy seas of life. “The constant undulation of the strings keeps rising and falling, containing the whole energy and drama of the work within itself,” says the composer. It is likely to be more expressive than her previous compositions, where typical minimalist repetitiveness has a touch of impressionism. One of such examples is the oboe solo Your Eyelashes Touch The Lips Of My Memories (2002), which, like much of the composer’s work, is inspired by poetry (the title is a line from a poem by Algimantas Mackus). Here Narvilaitė briefly rejects compositional rigour, preferring the romantic, nostalgic instrumental melody instead. This work is going to be performed on the 15th of April in Kiev, at the international festival Season Premieres by the Lithuanian oboist Robertas Beinaris.

Splitting her skills between composition and organisational activities evenly, Loreta Narvilaitė devotes most of her time to the festivals taking place at the Klaipėda Concert Hall. Thanks to her, the contemporary and classical music festivals Permainų muzika (Music of Changes), Salve Musica and Klaipėdos muzikos pavasaris (Klaipėda Music Spring) are especially rich in Lithuanian music. Full of ideas for original concert programs, Narvilaitė is also extremely successful in fighting an old problem - having been rather bleak for quite a while, the Klaipėda contemporary music scene is becoming increasingly attractive. By developing contacts with the most prominent Lithuanian music festivals, like Gaida, Vilnius Jazz and others, she started inviting to Klaipėda the most interesting projects by the Lithuanian performers and international stars. It appears that the constantly emphasized gap between Vilnius and Klaipėda could have been easily bridged by improving the quality of the musical life. “Life changes, and so do the music festivals: some fade out, others emerge. At some point I was organizing the contemporary music festival Kopa. It faded out, and then after some time contemporary music came back to Klaipėda with the emergence of the Permainų muzika festival,” says Loreta Narvilaitė about the changes that took place in the port town in 2005. In early autumn, the Permainų muzika festival (the third one already) will continue its own tradition of introducing the works of the 20th and 21st centuries, most of which have never been performed in Klaipėda. This time the festival will focus on John Cage. The music of the composer (who is indirectly responsible for the festival’s name) will not only be performed live (an excerpt from Music of Changes, Sonatas and Interludes, Amores), but will also be discussed in the video club of the festival.

The changes spreading through the festivals’ programs and seasonal concerts at the Klaipėda Concert Hall seem to bring the port town’s audiences back to concerts. That is assisted also by the collaboration agreement with the National Philharmonic Society, one of the largest Lithuanian concert institutions, which brings its successful projects to Klaipėda.

Loreta Narvilaitė seems to long for similar changes in her works. When one listens to her works one after another, the ear observes the variations in style: from the repetitive, intensive, concerto-like Visby-Bike for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (2002) or Call-Light for two trumpets and two pianos (2000) to the already mentioned neoromantic oboe solo Your Eyelashes Touch The Lips Of My Memories or Gardens of Sorrow for three percussionists (2005), where the composer applies the previously unexplored combination of rigid lines and aleatoric isles.

© Eglė Grigaliūnaitė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 14