The Scottish Ensemble’s candlelit concerts to focus on the Baltic Renaissance
Music by composers Arvo Pärt and Erkki-Sven Tüür to feature
While the phrase ‘it’s Baltic’ is usually heard in relation to Scotland’s freezing temperatures, this winter it can be applied to something a bit warmer. The Scottish Ensemble’s traditionally candlelit concerts home in on the Baltic nations and music by some of their finest composers. Best known is Arvo Pärt, whose distinctive and mystical Fratres is at the core of a programme which alternates contemporary Baltic composers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with Byrd and Purcell from Renaissance England.
Explaining the thinking behind this unusual juxtaposition of musical styles, artistic director Jonathan Morton says, ‘There’s been a huge rise in the popularity of Arvo Pärt’s music and I was really keen to do a concert of more music from that part of the world, bringing in lesser known composers too. It should all work well together, with a sense of looking back alongside a sense of contemplation.’
One of the less well known composers is Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür, whose Symphony No 8 was premiered by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra last year. Less familiar still is Bronius Kutavicius from Lithuania. ‘I’d actually never heard of him,’ says Morton, ‘and don’t even know how to pronounce his name, but his music is completely extraordinary. I’ve never heard anything like it. He has a unique version of minimalism, that’s absolutely not American.’
Morton believes that Kutavicius’s music finds its roots in the geographic location of this group of ex-Soviet states. ‘It makes use of Lithuanian folk music and is extremely powerful, beautiful and immediate. It sounds primeval, ancient,’ he says, ‘and is very shamanistic and hypnotic. He’s a fascinating figure.’
Throwing the Baltic and the British together in this way is a typically inventive piece of Scottish Ensemble programming which augurs well for a candlelit concert with a difference.
Scottish Ensemble, Oran Mor, Glasgow, Tue 6 Dec; Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Sun 11 Dec.