Nomeda Valančiūtė's Bittersweet Glamour

At the end of 2001, Nomeda Valančiūtė's Nymphaeum for six cellos was awarded First Prize at the open competition organized by the Music Foundation of the Lithuanian Composers' Union. The work was commissioned by the International Gaida Festival in 2001 for the "GeriCelli" ensemble, made up of distinguished cellist David Geringas and his pupils.

The vivid and compelling interpretation of Nymphaeum by excellent musicians revealed the best and most characteristic features of this composer's style. Her music contains nothing random, everything is strictly calculated, and every detail coheres within the entirety of the piece. All the same, this music is absolutely not technological by nature - Valančiūtė's creations are all based on a not easily defined intuitive impulse, which is later matured through methodical work with sound material, and then given a precisely polished form. Valančiūtė's minimalist idiom is connected as much with ancient isorhythmic techniques (rotating patterns of melodies and rhythms which differ in length), as it is with the principles of 20th-century repetitive music. A closer look at the composer's works and their conceptual stimuli reveals interesting internal opposites: frank emotion - and its "suppression" via uncompromisingly austere structures; a crystal clarity throughout - and the conscious avoidance of "beauty" (utilization of sharply "upsetting" disonance, and frequent application of the "out of tune" sound of a prepared piano, etc); the stance of a "pure music" adept - and the multidimensional picturesqueness of this music, its oddly "theatrical" manner of speaking, and a certain "bittersweet" glamour which applies only to this composer. She remains mysterious and avoids any detailed programmatic background for her works (with the exception of suggestive titles) - leaving that to the attentive listener.

Nomeda Valančiūtė's music is often performed at various international contemporary music festivals, but her most frequent and committed audiences seem to be located in Germany. In November 2001, soon after the Gaida Festival, her premiered Nymphaeum piece was performed at a "GeriCelli" ensemble event entitled "Ostseebilder", dedicated to new music from the countries of the Baltic Sea region, and taking place in Berlin, at the Haus Berliner Stadtbibliothek, Berlin-Saal.

That same year, the Cottbus String Quartet played another of her works - Fragment from the Hospital Park at the Cottbuser Musikherbst festival in Guben. This composition is unusual in that the string quartet musicians also perform the vocal parts, which in itself evokes theatrical implications. On top of this particular challenge, which demands a fair bit of mental and technical prowess, it is worth noting that the Cottbus String Quartet musicians learned and performed the piece in Lithuanian, even though there is German and English versions of the text. The piece is based on a poetic work by the Lithuanian Henrikas Radauskas which is close to the artistic nature of the composer both in terms of aesthetic purity and picturesque explicitness. The vivid, somewhat surrealistic imagery of his poem "The Hospital Park" (a fragment of which is sung by the musicians - hence the title Fragment from the Hospital Park) influences the sound substance and emotional connotations of the piece. It once again exemplifies features which are characteristic of Valančiūtė's works in general: a particular laconic atmosphere, and a consequent development of textures ranging from light-as-a-feather to distinctively complex.

Nomeda Valančiūtė has other creative ties with Germany as well. They include a series of her works being published by the Karthause-Schmülling in Kamen (thus far eight of her chamber works have been published; soon to be published works include Island for large ensemble, Cell for string orchestra, Marthamaria for string orchestra and organ, and The Message for symphony orchestra). There is also a work commissioned by prominent German trombonist Günter Heinz, entitled Wiese für eine erschöpfte Seele for trombone and string quintet, which she wrote in 2001 while residing and working at the Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf (under a Brandenburg Kultursministerium scholarship). And this summer the composer plans for a resident position at the Künstlerhaus Lukas in Ahrenshoop (with support from the Stiftung Kulturfonds), where she will carry out her latest creative projects, including a large work for chamber orchestra and vocalists for the 2002 Gaida Festival.

© Linas Paulauskis

Lithuanian Music Link No. 4