Lithuanian Music Bundle

The release this month of an album of choral songs by Vladas Jakubėnas (1904–78) (TOCC 0028) brings to a total of six the releases of music by Lithuanian composers on Toccata Classics. Our attention began with a CD of orchestral music by Vytautas Bacevičius (1905–70), wonderfully feisty works that evolve from post-Skryabin to Varèse in style (TOCC 0049), and we have since released the first in a series documenting his piano music (TOCC 0134) – with Volume Two already recorded and in preparation (it will be TOCC 0328 when it comes out).

Nor is the new recording our first presentation of Jakubėnas’ music: a mixed programme of chamber and chamber-orchestral pieces was released on TOCC 0013 in October 2012. It provoked Steve Arloff to write, in a review for MusicWeb International: ‘It is fortunate that record companies such as Toccata exist that they are ready to make available music of real quality that we would very likely never get to hear otherwise. […] This is a disc to savour. It will repay close listening with a richly rewarding experience’.

Like Bacevičius and Jakubėnas, Jeronimas Kačinskas (1907–2005) was an American exile from Soviet Lithuania; unlike them, he lived long enough to return to his homeland in triumph after the collapse of the Soviet Union (indeed, the USSR came and went within his lifetime). Our TOCC 0169, released in August 2013, revealed Kačinskas as a mild modernist, his music tonal, but only locally so, and in constant thematic evolution.

Although all three composers were born within the space of three years, their music is refreshingly different, Jakubėnas finding a path between Hindemith and Lithuanian folk-music, Bacevičius picking up where Prokofiev left off and Kačinskas, influenced by his teacher Alois Habá, taking a different path to Schoenberg’s, though with the same musical logic.

Of course, contemporary music is flourishing once again in Lithuania, and Toccata Classics is pleased to be doing its bit to bring the best of it to you, thanks not least to the help of the good folk at the Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre. One recent release was especially important: Bronius Kutavičius’ oratorio The Seasons (TOCC 0200). I (Martin Anderson) was present at the premiere, given during the celebrations for Kutavičius’ 80th birthday in September 2012, and was relieved at the end to see that it would just fit on a CD.

Steve Arloff continued his review by saying that the first Jakubėnas CD made you ‘realise how much this small country of barely three million people punches above its weight musically’.