Gidon Kremer / Kremerata Baltica

De Profundis

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The Baltic countries, just a couple of decades old in their current incarnations, have emerged as hotbeds of contemporary music, resting on a triad of experimentalism, community music-making, and a few big stars committed to the growth of a distinctive homegrown scene. Among the latter group, violinist Gidon Kremer has made consistently successful recordings, artistically and commercially, with his handpicked group of young Latvian musicians, Kremerata Baltica. Many of these have displayed Kremer's knack for combining contemporary music, tango, and established repertory in compelling thematic combinations. The booklet for De Profundis (in English only) contain only an explanation of the concept: the opening words of Psalm 130, "De profundis clamavi a te, Domine," "Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord," have a unique relevance in today's world of repression and exploitation; otherwise the music is left to speak for itself. Arvo Pärt's choral setting of this psalm is not included, and the only direct reference to the text comes in the romantic but eclectic De profundis by the young Lithuanian composer Raminta Serksnyté. The rest of the music is not directly supplicatory in tone, and for the most part has no direct religious references. But the entire program holds together beautifully, with a somber, questing mood expressed in a variety of musical languages. Romantic-minimalist music like Michael Nyman's Trysting Fields is set against formal structures like one of Schumann's Six Fugues on the name B.A.C.H., Op. 60, with the two poles meeting in Pärt's Passacaglia (track 2). There are edgy dark reflections on Russian culture: an adagio from Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, an unidentified and alarming fragment by Alfred Schnittke). Other works of a religious tone include the young Russian composer Lera Auerbach's Sogno di Stabat Mater and Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer transcription of Bach's Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen, from the St. John Passion, BWV 245. There are graceful resting places from Piazzolla (Melodía en la menor) and Schubert. The cumulative effect, difficult to put into words, is moving, reverential yet lively, and moreover situated at the center of the Baltics' emerging critique of Putin's Russia. The album is dedicated to the imprisoned Russian industrialist and reformer Mikhail Khodorovsky, but this is orchestral music that speaks to political and social circumstances more generally in a way that few other musicians have managed for decades. A new step forward for neo-tonal music, recommended in the strongest possible terms.

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