OK, so when Andris Nelsons signed up to Deutsche Grammophon, fine, wise choice on the company's part, but did the world need more recordings of Bruckner and Shostakovich symphonies (good as they are)? When his Lithuanian neighbour to the south of Latvia Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (pictured above in what seems to be a nice new image by Andreas Hechenberger) brokered her deal, news of which has been released today, she clearly had take-it-or-leave it ideas about the repertoire she wanted to record.
Repertoire which will actually enrich us rather than just give another 'conductor's interpretation of...' (though I'd have been very happy if they'd gone for her individual and loving way with the Tchaikovsky ballets). The first release in May will be of Weinberg's Symphony No. 21, which the composer tentatively suggested might be called 'Kaddish', with the combined forces of the CBSO, Kremerata Baltica and its presiding genius Gidon Kremer - I raved about the live performance, coupled with Shostakovich's Fifteenth Symphony, here on The Arts Desk - and his Second Symphony (Kremerata Baltica only). Next are works by Mirga's fellow Lithuanian Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra , Vilnius Municipal Choir and Kremerata Baltica. DG haven't specified what 'works by British composers' will be on the cards in the third project, to celebrate the orchestra's centenary.
It was serendipitous news on a day when I was working on a note for the performance she'll be giving with the CBSO of The Sea by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), her country's greatest composer. I'd expected to find this half-hour symphonic poem a bit wispy and second-rank, but it's astonishingly good. Listening to two recordings (by Svetlanov, right up his late romantic street, and Gintaras Rinkevičius with the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra he founded in 1989 - I presume that's the same as the 'National' SO cited above), it's obvious how the young composer had absorbed the sound-worlds of Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and Ein Heldenleben. Yet he eventually makes something of his own in the hypnotic nocturne that follows the storm.
Not sure what to make of the art which took over in the final years of Čiurlionis's all-too-short life - he was committed to a psychiatric hospital with a severe bout of depression in 1910, and died of pneumonia there the following year, having never seen his baby daughter - but clearly there's a synaesthesic connection. The two above pictures are part of A Sonata of the Sea, painted in 1908. The first is entitled Allegro, the second Andante and the third Finale.
This gives a further fillip to my longing to visit the third of the Baltic countries - the first two, Estonia and Latvia, I love and respect beyond measure - to see Čiurlionis's house in Vilnius and the gallery containing his pictures. I also ought to think of travelling up to Birmingham to hear the concert, since I'm hooked on the work now. Here's Svetlanov's performance, a bit rough around the edges but right in spirit.