Martinaityte: Saudade / Šlekyte, Lithuanian National Symphony
Ondine’s releases on Baltic composers continue with a new exciting release featuring recent orchestral compositions by New York-based Lithuanian composer Žibuokle Martinaityte (b. 1973) composed within a span of six years performed by Lithuanian orchestras conducted by the young talented Lithuanian conductor Giedre Slekyte and pianist Gabrielius Alekna as soloist. Martinaityte was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2020. Among her output are impressive orchestral compositions with evocative titles and beautiful orchestral textures with precision to detail. The most recent of the works, Saudade (2019) symbolizes the stratum of multiple yearnings: sadness for missing and happiness for experiencing the past. Millefleur (2018) is a work that the composer has described as “acoustic hedonism, a search for acoustic pleasures”. Martinaityte’s Chiaroscuro trilogy (2017) is a 3-movement work for piano and strings, reflecting the very essence of our existence; the various grades of darkness and light. Horizons (2013) was written in New York and Lithuania and was inspired by two movies, Cloud Atlas and The Hours as well as Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveler. In this work the listener travels through one story to another.
When listening to Zibuokle Martinaityte, you might be tempted to assign her to a school. The composer clearly likes extended time scales and slowly mutating materials, so does that make her a Minimalist? Further evidence for such a label includes praise she has received from the composer Ingram Marshall.
The Ondine imprint’s new album-length survey of her orchestral music, “Saudade,” doesn’t radically upend such a classification—though it does complicate the story. While the title track invites comparison to works like John Luther Adams’s calmly roiling “Become Ocean,” other pieces on the album show off Martinaityte’s distinctiveness.
She can create hovering nimbus clouds of harmony with the best of them. Yet she’s not afraid to throw a thunderbolt through her subtle, scenic designs. Midway through the otherwise beatific “Millefleur,” a percussive edge emerges, offering an unexpected martial cast to the work. And on “Horizons,” as played by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the handoffs between strutting flutes and stark strings also serve notice regarding this composer’s winning unpredictability.
– New York Times
Žibuoklė Martinaitytė (b. 1973) is a Lithuanian composer whose orchestral music has links to the French Spectral school, Minimalism, and the world of Pärt, Silvestrov, and the Eastern European “Spiritual Minimalists.” She is interested in sonority (like the Spectralists), but her sonorities, while they sometimes employ avant-garde playing techniques, are not necessarily dissonant. Martinaitytė has moved beyond shock value: She uses tonal harmonies and, while her textures are highly imaginative, she tends to avoid ugly noise. Nor is her music simply feel-good New Age doodling: she recognizes the symphony orchestra has immense power, which she summons up expertly at climactic moments. The performances are dazzling, and the sound picture captures everything in a satisfying balance. I heartily recommend this program to listeners who think they may not like it.
Catalog Number: ODE 1386-2
Composer: Žibuoklė Martinaitytė
Conductor: Giedrė Šlekytė
Orchestra/Ensemble: Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra
Performer: Gabrielius Alekna