ČIURLIONIS: In the Forest; The Sea; De Profundis – Lithuanian National Sym. Orch. and Kaunas State Choir/Juozas Domarkas. Cond. – Northern Flowers NF/PMA 9999, 51:39 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Lithuanian Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911) was a short-lived late romantic composer whose creations include the two symphonic poems and a cantata on this disc (identified as his complete works for orchestra) and over 200 piano pieces, a string quartet, choral and and organ works. He was also a prolific painter of numerous oils described in the extensive notes (in English and Cyrillic – Lithuanian? or Russian?) as moderne (art deco) and art noveau.
His music is influenced by folk music: He collected, arranged and recorded around 60 Lithuanian folk songs. His music sounds like it is influenced also by Alexander Glazounov, Richard Strauss and even Jean Sibelius. Whether it is or not, I don’t know. Maybe he tapped into their muses.
Čiurlionis’ music is agreeably romantic, somewhat pictorial and not predictable. It is not particularly memorable either, but does grow on you with repeated hearings. The symphonic poem In the Forest (1901) is lush and exciting and only lacks that last ounce of an over-the-top musical climax that the aforementioned composers produced so readily.
The tone poem The Sea (1907) has all the requisite sonic effects to depict sea-going. The three movement cantata De Profundis (1899) using the words of Psalm 129 originally translated into Polish then into Lithuanian, employs a choir and orchestra with a few, brief musical surprises.
Conductor Domarkas (also a pianist and composer) has served as artistic director and chief conductor of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra since 1964. From the sound of the orchestra—some 96 strong—they are top-notch musicians who fully grasp the music of Čiurlionis. Domarkas is as effective an interpreter of these works as possible. He understands the sweep and flow of this music.
Northern Flowers is a relatively new Russian label and they have effective engineers on this release. The sound is very fine, just lacking more ambience. This disc is listed as from the St. Petersburg Musical Archive. Recommended!
A rich reflections into Rachmaninoff’s oeuvre