Raminta Šerkšnytė's Luminous Ingenuity

Despite the young age of the composer, Raminta Šerkšnytė's works are finding themselves in growing demand by local and international performers, and increasingly appreciated by audiences. At first glance, there seems to be nothing special about her style, which appears distinctly neo-romantic, and even in a sense traditionalist. This image, however, is quite deceptive, for even a brief listen reveals that the musical idiom is unmistakably her own - it has nothing to do with any kind of stylization or post-modernistic reconstruction, and contains a great deal of narrative imagination and luminous ingenuity.

As early as in her BA diploma work, De profundis for string orchestra (1998), Šerkšnytė proved that she possessed an impeccable skill for orchestral writing. Her MA work, Iceberg Symphony for symphony orchestra (2000), which premiered at the "Jauna muzika" festival in 2001, is a colourful and spirited fantasy of nature. In the words of the composer, the image of a "brilliant white crown of an iceberg, plunging into a boundless ocean, and encircled by underwater currents" could perfectly embody the mystical and vital origins of being in this piece of music. Iceberg Symphony will be performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Robertas Šervenikas) at the Berdwaldhallen in Stockholm, on April 4, 2003.

Šerkšnytė's chamber compositions also reveal a penchant for colourful soundscapes which seem inspired by a lofty reflection of nature. Such is the Concerto for Six (1999) - a symphony in miniature, with echoes of classical Hindu as well as jazz music knead into a quasi-improvisational fabric of continuous drones, with an abundance of embellishments and alternating virtuoso solos of different instruments. This composition will be performed by students of the Latvian Academy of Music, at the first international new music festival, "Arena", in Riga, on October 29.

Recently Raminta Šerkšnytė qualified among the winners of a competition for young composers, presented by the famous Swedish percussion ensemble, "Kroumata". Šerkšnytė's Idée fixe for six percussionists (2002) is a distinctly different work - more in the tradition of American minimalist music, than her typical neo-romantic idiom. The general character of this piece, and the nature of its dramatic development are reflected in the title itself, Idée fixe: an obsessive repeating motif travels through different combinations of percussion instruments, growing more and more dramatic and phantasmagorical, until it is finally overpowered and interrupted by the crashing tam-tam, which turns everything into a ringing silence. The piece was premiered on September 28, at the "Arts & Science" festival in Stockholm.

The ability of the composer to employ the potential of a single instrument in order to create a certain psychologically nuanced, narrative and rich imagery appeals to those musicians who choose her works for their solo performances. Two of her piano solo works, Passacaglia (1995) and Fantasy (1997), and Adieu for oboe solo (2002), will appear on two CD releases by the end of this year.

A natural union of the two aforementioned directions in the composer's work - orchestral music and pieces for solo instruments - is embodied in her new Concerto for saxophone and chamber orchestra (2002). In this work, which consists of three contrasting movements, one finds a blend of neo-romantic and jazz idioms. The Concerto will premiere at the forthcoming Gaida Festival, where it will be performed by Lithuanian jazz and contemporary classical saxophonist Danielius Praspaliauskis, together with the Lithuanian Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robertas Šervenikas.

The composer's busy schedule recently became even more so - when she received another new commission: her new composition for string quartet will be premiered by the Accordes String Quartet at an event called "A Glimpse at Lithuania", a concert of new Lithuanian music to be performed at the Music Gallery in Toronto on January 10, 2003.

© Linas Paulauskis

Lithuanian Music Link No. 5