Dec. 9, 2015
“Creation of the World” for the 140th Anniversary of Birth of M. K. Čiurlionis
Author: Daiva Tamošaitytė
Publication: Muzikų sąjunga
Dec. 9, 2015
Author: Daiva Tamošaitytė
Publication: Muzikų sąjunga
December 5th was the day that brought a lot of surprises to music lovers in Vilnius, at the National Philharmonic Hall. One of them was the interesting and sophisticated program, content or ideas that can be treated by adding or reducing the “weight” of the work. First of all, I have in mind the short piece in the beginning of the concert – Andrzej Panufnik’s Tragic Overture. Written in Warsaw in 1941, the overture was supposed to express the composer’s gloomy feelings and moods of wartime. During the rebellion of 1944, the composer lost his manuscripts of thirty years, but the overture was the last opus which, according fo Panufnik, was engraved in his mind. So he recreated it after the war and dedicated it to his brother, ‘a brave Polish fighter who lost his life during this tragic uprising.’ However, if you do not know the program and purpose of this work, you will not find much of tragedy or drama here (except for the very end), but rather a lucid sadness, expressed by the slow second theme of long notes and the dominating subdued pizzicato articulation.
Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto for violin and orchestra (Concerto in Do, Basel, 1931) performed by Ingrida Armonaitė brought us back to such the era and stylistics, which requires a special accuracy, empaty and sensitivity, at the same time sense of scale, so that this enormously difficult score would not seem incomprehendible and, in aesthetic sense, no longer relevant. The soloist performed this neo-classicist composition with her typical concentration; her hich, warm tone led to oasis – the slow movement Arioso, and the three movements of fast tempo (Toccata, the other Arioso and the final Capriccio) sounded decisively, masculine. This musical language is seemingly close to the violinist, she is well versed in the field of I. Stravinsky’s musical significations. I. Armonaitė matched the orchestra and the gestures of the conductor Modestas Pitrėnas nicely; the conductor gained colourful, lightsome, agile tones from the orchestra.
The second part of the concert, with the premiere of Arvydas Malcys’ version of M. K. Čiurlionis’ Creation of the World, was eagerly awaited. From Čiurlionis’ piano reduction manuscripts, hints, references and... empty bars worth of duration of two hours, Malcys “created the world” of 57 minutes. A lot of toil was put by pianist Rokas Zubovas who played the manuscripts and, as an expert of Čiurlionis’ music, helped to orient in this “primordial plasma of the musical space-time”. The beginning intrigued, the very moment of emergence; the waltz sounded beautifully, the mazurkas – the dance-type episodes which enlivened the somewhat static succession of contrasting images. Well recognizable piano pieces conveyed in orchestral colours sounded softly, spaciously, dyed with unseen hues, especially as an instrumentation was masterful.
A lot of work was done here, struggling with the dangerous, accessible not for everyone, complicated Čiurlionis’ “laboratory”, with his non-standard writing manner, motives, development of thought, visions and incompletions... At first glance, it may seem that the result did not suprass the efforts and expectations, because the well-known musical material of Čiurlionis’ was exposed quite conservatively, as if fearing, for respect for our genius, to destroy the fragile inner mechanism. And well, it’s true. As far as similar (rare) experiments, ambitious projects were concerned, it was felt that the spirit and matter of Čiurlionis does not succumb to the touch of hand, not of his rank... But as a respectful tribute to Čiurlionis’ 140th anniversary, this Creation of the World with new orchestral colours met its goal (especially for those who did not have heard Čiurlionis before) and could be used creatively in the future.
After the concert, Rokas Zubovas (the great-grandson of Čiurlionis) said: ‘In 1907, Čiurlionis began to write symphonic poem Creation of the World. At the beginning of the manuscript, there is the inscription in Polish: ‘1907, 15th of March, symphonic poem Creation of the World, duration – about 16 minutes.’ From what we heard today, it’s about the first 10-12 minutes. Historically, he wrote a symphonic poem In the Forest within 12 days and orchestrated it half a year; The Sea – for three years, so 90 percent of the time is for orchestration. At that time he is working on everything. Apparently, he formed an initial idea, but wrote another symphonic work, started the opera. This Creation of the World includes Čiurlionis’ piano preludes composed in 1907, some hints to his other works from 1907-10. When in 1910 his wife Sofija takes Čiurlionis back from St. Petersburg to Druskininkai, he, in attempts to overcome his disability, wites, continues to wander the labyrinths of his memories. Writes more than two hours of music – practically everything.
I am very happy to hear these pieces in orchestral colours. Čiurlionis, when he began to write symphonic works, wanted to study the orchestration all his life. He always thought orchestra-wise but never had time or opportunity to tackle that. And now, an adequate orchestrator emerged which awakened that music – there was no such good result so far. While listening, I was convinced that the orchestration was really similar to Čiurlionis’, or at least to that of the beginning of the 20th century – the real, with all that brass, full. Arvydas dared to add some extra textural parts, to play with timbres, to expand the orchestration as much as possible. I am happy about that.
During the rehearsals I was thinking that there is a need for stage movement and stage design from Čiurlionis’ paintings, to animate the journey through history and time. I image this piece as a hour-long stock ballet. There are many characteristic elements and episodes of dances: for example, the 5-minute waltz from the second movement could be a separate number titled Čiurlionis’ Waltz; or canonical variations from the third movement. Very beautiful orchestration which can become an ornate accent of the New Year. The ending with Lithuanian days, this is what Čiurlionis planned, this is in the plot.’
We talk with the major implementer of this large and complex project, the composer Arvydas Malcys
- What is the idea of the Creation of the World? What did Čiurlionis indend to create, and what did indend you to do with this idea?
- M. K. Čiurlionis’ original manuscript is a book of yellowish sheets of staffs. There are about two thousand bars. Some are hard-to-read, or of uneven writing, perhaps while travelling for a long time... There are pages where only bar lines are drawn, but no notes. Apparently, while knowing what whill sound in these places, M. K. Čiurlionis left this for the future. There are no signs of dynamics, tempos; key signatures are not everywhere...
It is difficult to say what kind of idea Čiurlionis had when creating such a musical fabric...
I think that, according to the scope of the work, he wanted something magnificent, something extraordinary...
It is the birth and the walk through life, through the world from darkness to light...
I think that, as in his paitings, he wanted to tell a lot of stories, experiences, joys and frustrations, discoveries and losses... There are episodes of nature: a storm, ripple of a stream, awakening of nature, birdsongs. Here you can also hear the ball waltzes, the mazurka, the romantic romances of the dreaming couples, the nocturnes performed in the city salons, the funeral procession, the Lithuanian folk laments, the German canons, the Austrian minuet. I hope the listener will be interested in discovering and knowing somewhat different Čiurlionis...
As Čiurlionis wrote to his brother, he wanted to paint a 100-picture cycle of Creation of the World.
But managed to paint only 13...
- How much of your own was added to the structure, to the selection? How much of your original material are there?
- Rokas Zubovas who is a specialist of Čiurlionis’ work helped me very much. With his supervision in the first phase, all text of the piano reduction score was computer-engraved – about 2000 bars. It’s not just a computer-engraved text; the keys, the tempos, the time signatures and articulations were deciphered and fixed...
In the second phase, Rokas recorded all the material. So there were about two hours of music.
In the third stage, I selected the most characteristic and consistent numbers for the score.
Of course, there are some of my corrections and inserts, connecting episodes. I have contributed a lot to the episodes of the beginning and the end. This, I think, was necessary for us to feel that darkness at the beginning and that light at the end... Some of the numbers are extended, some contrapuntal parts are added at times, so that the orchestra and the musical material would sound complete and full. Sometimes the canons are complemented with the additional imitations of the theme, for the effect of completeness. The bass was added in a dozen of places, for the stability of the orchestra’s vertical plane.
Most of the chosen articulations prompted the appropriate logic of the performance, which, of course, is different in the orchestra performance from that of the solo piano.
The character and the mood of each episode depends on the chosen articulations, therefore this was polished until the last moment; the advices of the Maestro Modestas Pitrėnas helped me much there.
Some numbers were extended, therefore they are finally twice as long, but they gain this extra development, completeness, the dramatic and concert effect...