Gidon Kremer: New Seasons
Gidon Kremer is one of those rare musicians capable of illuminating a new work in such a way as to reveal its true greatness. Giya Kancheli’s Ex contrario is not exactly ‘new’ (it dates back to 2006) but Kremer and Kremerata Baltica’s excellent performance does much to suggest that Kancheli’s epic paean to pathos must rank as one of his greatest compositions. The title is appropriate – Ex contrario is contrary to itself and pretty much everything else. It steadfastly defies categorisation, pitting moments of tender lyricism against strident dissonances in a bittersweet struggle that never seems to achieve full closure.
Such diurnal mood swings reflect the ever-changing nature of the seasons, which in turn is meant to connect the four works included on this disc, but only Glass’s Second Violin Concerto directly refers to his theme. Kremer’s interpretation shines new light on Glass’s now-familiar patterns and stock formulas too. He approaches the opening prologue and subsequent solo interludes that separate the concerto’s four movements with perhaps less full-blooded intensity than Tim Fain (Orange Mountain, 7/15). Kremer’s playing is quite reserved and detached during these unaccompanied vignettes. This allows him to inject more drive and passion into the orchestral movements – the first and third played with dark drama, the elegiac third fragile and beautiful, while the final movement is dispatched with almost devilish insouciance, Kremerata Baltica just about holding on to the violinist’s coat-tails.
Arvo Pärt’s Estonian Lullaby, sung with wonderful restraint by the Girls’ Choir of the Vilnius Choir-Singing School, and Japanese film composer Shigeru Umebayashi’s pleasant ‘Yumeji’s Theme’ pass almost unnoticed next to Glass’s large-scale concerto and Kancheli’s postmodern ‘sinfonia concertante’. Kremer’s performances, as ever, bring the music to full bloom: truly a ‘musician for all seasons’.