Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis Orchestral Works in Fresh Performances

Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis was a star that burned brightly, yet briefly. This Lithuanian composed almost 400 works, painted over 300 pictures and died at the age of 35.

Ciurlionis is considered one of the pioneers of abstract art and possibly had synesthesia. He’s certainly a pioneer of Lithuanian music. This recording features Ciurlionis’ complete surviving symphonic works (many exist only in piano sketches or short scores).

The Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra directed by Modestas Pitrenas do their countryman proud. The orchestra has a lush, warm sound that suits Ciurlionis’ music well. The works presented here —  to my ear — share some qualities with Scriabin, Richard Strauss, and perhaps even Mahler (somewhat).

“Miske” (In the Forest) is absolutely gorgeous. Ciurlionis slowly gathers his material together, as if we’re seeing the forest through a mist. As the fog dissipates, shapes become clearer. Or in this case, motifs coalesce and the orchestra becomes more expansive.

Ciurlionis’ work “The Sea” has become a cultural touchstone in Lithuania. As with Bruckner’s symphonies, others have tinkered with the score over the years to improve the orchestration and make cuts!

This release features Ciurlionis’ original score, with all those, um, improvements stripped away. Like Bruckner, it turns out Ciurlionis didn’t really need any help.

Ciurlionis masterfully evokes the expansiveness and motion of the sea in a somewhat abstract fashion. And that’s what makes the piece so effective. It’s music that draws the listener in, to make of this creation what they will.

Highly recommended.

Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis
The Sea; In the Forest; Kestutis Overture
Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra; Modestas Pitrenas, conductor
Ondine ODE 1346-2

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