Enduring Musical Partnership

Anatolijus Šenderovas and David Geringas at the "NordTöne - Neue Musik aus dem Baltikum" festival

Successful collaborations between performer and composer often result in the emergence of fascinating new works, and their subsequent long-term nurturing. There are numerous such examples: the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and composer Pehr Henrik Nordgren, the St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra and Osvaldas Balakauskas, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Kalevi Aho, and the like.

photo: Arūnas Baltėnas

Today we can speak with confidence about the 30-odd year long artistic partnership between the well-known cellist David Geringas and composer Anatolijus Šenderovas. It began back in 1972, when the composer wrote and dedicated his Sonata for cello and percussion, and later, Four Pieces for cello and piano, to David Geringas. Their collaboration was interrupted in 1975, when the cellist moved to the West, but it has acquired new inspiration and excellence more recently, when Geringas returned, in the early 1990s, to Lithuania's musical life.

Quite a few changes occurred during that gap in time, including that the music of several former Soviet-era composers – Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli – had become very popular in the West. It seemed as if the West had grown tired of its avant-garde abstractions, and willingly drew on the emotional straightforwardness emanating from the East. And most importantly, on a certain clearly expressed musical message which could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Sadness, doubt, abrupt outbursts of uncontrollable power, stoic resignation - it all had a magical effect on Western audiences. And no less impressive was the religious aspect of this music.

Anatolijus Šenderovas does not downplay the influence of Shostakovich or Schnittke on his early works - he always felt an affinity for intuitive and rather learned through experience than speculative expression. However, it was only in the 1990s, after visiting Israel, that the composer turned away from a somewhat abstract atonal style towards a more recognizable music language, featuring characteristics of ancient Jewish music (especially the legacy of Sephardic tradition), and the influence of klezmer, regardless of what this broad concept might encompass – religious, ritual hymns, or instrumental music. The harmony of the major scale with lowered second and sixth, improvisational rhythm and tempo, the energy flowing from a string instrument (usually a cello), development of the piece from a specific thematic 'motto' – Šenderovas' music acquired a distinctly recognizable sound, one which fits perfectly into the flow of emotionally charged music coming from Eastern Europe.

David Geringas became the composer's principal inspirer - as well as performer and promoter of Šenderovas' music. For the cello player were written Due canti for cello and piano (1993), several versions of Songs of Sulamite (originally for voice and piano, 1992), double concerto Paratum cor meum... (1995), Con amore for six cellos (2002), and one of the composer's most successful latest opuses – Concerto in Do for cello and symphony orchestra, for which he won the European Composer's Prize at the "young.euro.classic" festival in 2002.

All of these works are part of David Geringas' standing repertoire, frequently included in concert programmes in various cities in Germany and the rest of Europe. In 2002, the German "Dreyer.Gaido" label released a retrospective CD of Anatolijus Šenderovas' music, all performed by the celebrated cellist. This year, at the initiative of Michael Dreyer (head of "Dreyer.Gaido") and David Geringas, Anatolijus Šenderovas is being invited composer-in-residence to the NordTöne – Neue Musik aus dem Baltikum festival, July 4-10, in Osnabrück.

The festival will present the entire retrospective of Anatolijus Šenderovas' works, including the premiere of his latest work: incidental music for the play "Ghetto" by Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol at the Osnabrück City Theatre (directed by Ramunė Kudzmanaitė). "Ghetto" is the story of the Vilnius Ghetto theatre during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania; the play was inspired by an actual theatre which operated in the Jewish ghetto from 1941 to 1943. Despite protests - "no theatre in the graveyard!" - the Vilnius Ghetto theatre responded to despair with songs, satire, and - amazingly - criticism of the Nazi regime. The composer, who recently wrote the music for the film by the same name, says that he avoided illustration, the dictate of the subject, and that he sought to create "[his] own film", which would be in constant dialogue with the thematic line.

© Daiva Parulskienė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 8