Gaida Ensemble - Ambassadors of New Lithuanian Music

'Honorary ambassadors' is a title frequently applied in Lithuania to its athletes in general, and even more frequently to Lithuania's 'green team' of basketball players. The Gaida Ensemble is also a team of some of Lithuania's best musicians. Instead of games, tournaments and championships, these professional musicians come together for missions to the most prominent festivals of contemporary music.

photo: Mikhail Rashkovsky

The group debuted, as one might expect, at the Gaida Festival, in the autumn of 2002, in Vilnius. Its debut performance "had an air of non-conformism, and the hope for some sort of crossed limits," wrote musicologist Rūta Goštautienė, after the festival. For newcomers, theirs was a sufficiently impressive beginning, especially as their first international appearance took place at the prestigious MaerzMusik festival in Berlin, less than half a year later.

That there is a distinctive and developed culture of new music in the three small Baltic countries, was perfectly revealed by the arrival at the festival of these amiable young musicians (...). The Lithuanians left a lasting impression (...). What caught one's attention was their fresh and vital performance, their inclination to the archaic, which emerges from their distinctive very old traditions - all of it connected to an original sound gestures and jazz rhythms.
Liesel Markowski, Neues Deutschland, 2003

The Gaida Ensemble successfully continues its mission in representing contemporary Lithuanian music at reputable international events. On September 10-11, the Ensemble took part in one of the most important Austrian forums for new music, Klangspuren Schwaz 2004. The focal point of a special Gaida Ensemble project was Vykintas Baltakas who found himself, within the context of the festival, in the company of such accomplished composers/conductors as his own teacher Peter Eötvös, Vinko Globokar and Beat Furrer. A programme of his works, consisting of das Lied for piano and tape, Unvollendete for flute, piccolo trumpet, and alto saxophone, No.2 for clarinet solo, and the world premiere of Ouroboros for large ensemble, was presented in the Livestock Auction Hall, with the author conducting. The programme was rounded off by the premiere of Vortex for violin solo and large ensemble by Raminta Šerkšnytė - a composer who is becoming popular at lightning speed not only in Lithuania, but also abroad. The striking composition, with its nearly orchestral sound, was written especially for the Gaida Ensemble and the celebrated British performer of contemporary music, the virtuoso violinist Irvine Arditti.

The Gaida Ensemble represented Lithuania at the opening concert of the Klangspuren Schwaz festival as well, performing Vykintas Baltakas' Poussla in an international alliance with the Tiroler Symphonieorchester Innsbruck and the Estonian conductor Olari Elts. The same piece will be presented on October 20 by the Gaida Ensemble together with the Orchestra Regionale Toscana, conductor Dominique My, at "La Biennale Musica 2004" in Venice.

No wonder then that the international conductors are invited to coach the Gaida Ensemble team for such demanding performances. In the same way that a professional competing team needs a good strategist to win, this ensemble, wherein each musician is considered a virtuoso of his/her instrument, needs exceptional leaders - experienced interpreters of new music. Along with subsequent collaborations with the aforementioned conductors Olari Elts and Dominique My, the first Gaida Ensemble projects for the 2002 "Gaida", and the 2003 "MaerzMusik" festivals were developed together with the Finnish conductor Jussi Jaatinen. The Ensemble prepared its new programme for the 2003 "Gaida" festival with the Belgian conductor, Daniel Gazon. Young and talented Lithuanian conductor Mindaugas Piečaitis collaborates with the Ensemble as well.

As the first sinfonietta-type group in Lithuania, the Gaida Ensemble not only filled what has become practically an empty niche over the past years in terms of contemporary music groups, it also became an important source of inspiration for new Lithuanian compositions. In this way, barely a few years later, the Gaida Ensemble has built a solid and diverse repertory of contemporary Lithuanian music: Osvaldas Balakauskas' Ludus modorum, Bronius Kutavičius' Clocks of the Past II, Remigijus Merkelys' Compass, Šarūnas Nakas' Aporia, Jurgis Juozapaitis' Jaura, Algirdas Martinaitis' Madame Butterfly, Madame Bovary..., Vykintas Baltakas' Ouroboros, Vytautas V. Jurgutis' Telogenos, Raminta Šerkšnytė's Vortex. The Gaida Ensemble will perform two new Lithuanian chamber operas - Gintaras Sodeika's Solitude for Two, and Vykintas Baltakas' Cantio - at this year's "Gaida" festival. The repertory of the Ensemble also includes such watershed works of new music as György Ligeti's Aventures / Nouvelles Aventures, Luca Francesconi's Etymo, Luciano Berio's Chemins II, John Adams' Chamber Symphony, and others.

On a Lithuanian scale, the Gaida Ensemble could almost be the "dream team" of performers of contemporary music. Reviewing briefly the work it has accomplished in its first few years of concert programmes, and judging by its success, one can be happy that, thus far, the Gaida Ensemble does not threaten to become a sleepy "dreaming team", resting on its laurels.

© Eglė Gudžinskaitė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 9