The Finish label “Ondine Records” has released the monographic album titled “Saudade” featuring recent orchestral compositions by the New York-based Lithuanian composer Žibuoklė Martinaitytė. The album features “Chiaroscuro Trilogy,” a work for piano and string orchestra performed by Gabrielius Alekna and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and conducted by a dynamic Austria-based maestra Giedrė Šlekytė. Ms. Martinaitytė, a decorated composer and Guggenheim Fellow, wrote and dedicated the Trilogy to Mr. Alekna, who premiered it with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra in the 2017 Gaida festival. The recording has been met with immediate acclaim, garnering praise in numerous publications such as the New York Times, Stereophile Magazine (Recording of the month), Gramophone and BBC Music Magazines.
The recording sessions were held in July 2020, a time when most of the world was under lockdown due to Covid pandemic and when even the idea of a live orchestra in a concert hall was hard to fathom. Recording sessions were scheduled and then rescheduled, Gabrielius Alekna had to get a special permit from the Lithuanian minister of culture to travel from New York to Lithuania, but in the end, against all the odds, the recordings were completed successfully.
Described as a “composer of winning unpredictability” (The New York Times) and a “textural magician” (WQXR), Ms. Martinaitytė’s works explore the tensions and longings of identity and place. “Their language is gestural, flowing and bold” (The Wire magazine), “a sound world that draws you into its shimmering heart” (Limelight magazine). The four Martinaitytė compositions recorded here were composed within a span of six years. “Horizons,” “Millefleur,” and “Saudade” (Portuguese for longing, this title was used for the album as a whole) were written for a full symphony orchestra and performed on the recording by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra.
The “Chiaroscuro Trilogy,” composed in 2017, was commissioned for the Gaida Festival by the Lithuanian Composers Union. It is scored for strings and a solo piano, and recorded with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. Evocatively titled movements of the trilogy – “Tunnel,” “Meteors,” and “Darkness of Light” – follow seamlessly one another. According to Martinaitytė, chiaroscuro, “a word that encompasses both darkness and light … profoundly reflects the very essence of our existence. I was exploring darkness and light through sounds in varied proportions and their relation to one another. Every part of the trilogy focuses on a particular aspect of this relationship, encompassing a large scale of gradations from the light of darkness to the darkness of light.”