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Ciurlionis: Piano Works Vol 2 / Muza Rubackyte

Ciurlionis / Rubackyte
Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572660   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



?IURLIONIS Piano Works, Volume 1 M?za Rubackyt? (pn) NAXOS 8.572659 (69:34)


Sonata. Nocturnes. Preludes. Mazurkas


?IURLIONIS Piano Works, Volume 2 M?za Rubackyt? (pn) NAXOS 8.572660 (69:35)

Read more /> Preludes. 3 Autumn Pieces on a Theme. String Quartet (trans. Rubackyté)


It has been said that it’s impossible to describe a spiral staircase without using your hands. It may be equally impossible to discuss the music of Mikalojus Konstantinas ?iurlionis (1875–1911) without reference to his almost exact contemporary, though not fellow countryman, Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915). The parallels are striking. Both men were heavily influenced by the visual arts; ?iurlionis was in fact a painter first and a composer second, his paintings outnumbering his compositions. Scriabin, of course, was Russian; ?iurlionis, Lithuanian. But a common denominator for both was Chopin. For ?iurlionis, it was an easy and natural cultural connection. He grew up in a household that spoke Polish and he only learned Lithuanian later in life. Whether he ever met Scriabin or heard any of the Russian composer’s works, I don’t know, but ?iurlionis did travel to St. Petersburg in 1909 for an exhibition of his own paintings.


A further, significant congruence is that both ?iurlionis and Scriabin were synesthetes, individuals who associate specific keys and chords with specific colors. As far as I’m aware, synesthesia, like true perfect pitch, is not a common phenomenon, so the chance of it occurring in two composers at the same time seems pretty remote. But happen it apparently did, and while ?iurlionis may not have produced a musical color wheel or elaborate theories on the subject, he did assign musical titles, like “prelude,” “fugue,” and “sonata,” to a number of his paintings.


Whether the particular wiring of the synthesete’s brain predisposes it to mental imbalance I’m not qualified to say, but it’s interesting that neither Scriabin nor ?iurlionis, colloquially speaking, was rowing with both oars in the water. Scriabin was never institutionalized that I know of, but his synesthesia, mysticism, and theosophy eventually led him to construct an alternate reality in which he envisaged musical Armageddon in the Himalayas. ?iurlionis, on the other hand, suffered from depression and a mental breakdown severe enough to send him to a sanatorium where he contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 35.


All of the pieces on this disc are relatively early ?iurlionis, written between 1898 and 1902. A number of them, prior to this recording, remained unpublished in shoddily notated manuscript form, some of them unfinished. Pianist M?za Rubackyt? took great pains, applying both musicological science and her instincts as a performing artist to prepare performing editions.


?iurlionis’s sound world, like his paintings, is steeped in a romantic mysticism, symbolism, and metaphysics that seem, at times, to flirt with the surreal. If you are hearing these pieces for the first time, some of them, like the exquisite Nocturne, VL 178, the wistful preludes, VL 185 and 186, and the Mazurka, VL 234, will surely recall Chopin, hardly surprising considering that ?iurlionis studied at the Warsaw Conservatory. But there’s a strangeness—an unexpected intruder in the underlying harmony or an interloper in the melodic progression—that both surprises and unnerves. Does it derive from some element in Lithuanian folk music? I don’t know. Messiaen was an admirer of ?iurlionis, though the Lithuanian’s mysticism does not seem to have been inspired by religion, at least not the Catholicism of the French Messiaen.


Then there’s a piece like the Impromptu, VL 181, that could almost pass as a page of rage from a Beethoven sonata, until one encounters harmonic and rhythmic shifts that not even Beethoven would have countenanced. Given the dates of these pieces, I kept waiting for something that might suggest the influence of Debussy and the Impressionists, but in vain. ?iurlionis’s musical vocabulary, like that of Scriabin in his early works, is essentially of an earlier construct, one that comes out of the virtuoso piano tradition of the 19th century. You wouldn’t be thought musically illiterate, for example, if you mistook the 40-second long Prelude, VL 230, for an abbreviated etude by Alkan. What make ?iurlionis’s music unusual and interesting are the intersecting currents of 19th- and early 20th-century tides that swirl through it. Listening to ?iurlionis can be a bit like listening to Chopin through the lens of the Symbolist painters, a school to which ?iurlionis, as a painter, is most often consigned, along with Gustav Klimt and Edvard Munch. The music is strikingly beautiful, but at times can have the disorienting effect of an out-of-body experience.


Though some of these pieces have been recorded by other artists, all on Volume 1 are new to me; therefore, I have no basis for comparison. My impression, however, is that M?za Rubackyt? is very close to this music—one might almost say at one with it—and plays it in a way that, to my ear, sounds completely natural and unerringly right. It’s hard for me to imagine the gorgeous sonata, a major addition to the literature, performed any more convincingly than Rubackyté plays it. Even if it were the only thing on the disc, the sonata alone is worth getting to know ?iurlionis for; it’s a magnificent work. Rubackyt??s piano is not identified, but the recording venue is, the Clara Wieck Auditorium in Heidelberg, and it provides superb sound for this excellent recording. If you didn’t purchase it on Marco Polo when it was originally released, here is your chance to acquire it at Naxos’s affordable price.


Unlike the first disc, which presents ?iurlionis’s relatively early works, the second collection gives us a glimpse into the composer’s later efforts dating from between1903 and 1909. These pieces are of a more modern cast, exploring polymodal and polyrhythmic techniques. Again, the parallels to Scriabin are striking, for he too, evolved from an early stage in which Chopin was a strong influence to a later stage in which his music became increasingly atonal and a-metric.


From the earliest of the pieces on Volume 2 to the latest, the progression is, nonetheless, a slow and methodical one. There is not a sudden abandonment or radical break from the past, but rather a gradual, almost regretful leave-taking, one might say, of a nostalgically remembered paradise lost. Even the late preludes retain a lyrical impulse, along with roots that seem to go back further than Chopin. Take, for example, VL 327, which has about it a decidedly Bach-like character. Generally speaking, in these later works, ?iurlionis seems to take a greater interest in contrapuntal techniques, as is clearly evidenced by, but not exclusive to, the Fugue in B?-Minor.


In fact, in a paper printed in the Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences , Enrique Alberto Arias of De Paul University writes that “increasingly, ?iurlionis’s piano preludes, perhaps his most characteristic works, are controlled by unified motivic and chordal structures.” And, Arias continues, “Though he [?iurlionis] has been compared to Scriabin, the works of Richard Strauss and, I believe, Max Reger, had a more profound impact.” The Reger connection strikes me as quite apt.


The one work on this disc that falls into ?iurlionis’s earlier phase is the String Quartet, or at least Rubackyt??s piano transcription of it. According to Rubackyt?, the last movement of the manuscript was lost before it could be published, but the three remaining movements add up to a not inconsequential 24 minutes, so it’s by no means an insubstantial or insignificant work. Listening to it, though, one has the feeling that it was probably a student work—Rubackyt? tells us it was composed while ?iurlionis took some classes at the Leipizig Conservatory between 1901 and 1902—for it sounds very much like an early piece by Beethoven.


My very favorable reaction to M?za Rubackyt?’s Volume 1 carries forward to Volume 2. I said previously—and it bears repeating—that the pianist is very close to this music—one might almost say at one with it—and plays it in a way that, to my ear, sounds completely natural and unerringly right. All of this music is new to me, but it has certainly sparked my interest in a composer whose works, judging by these two recordings, deserve to be better known than they are. Rubackyt?’s two ?iurlionis CDs are companions that complement each other and ought not to be separated. If you acquire one, you should acquire both. Very strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Prelude for Piano in D minor, VL 239/Op. 12 no 1 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 2 Minutes 13 Secs. 
2.
Prelude for Piano, VL 241 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 26 Secs. 
3.
Prelude for Piano, VL 256 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 4 Minutes 6 Secs. 
4.
Prelude for Piano, VL 259 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 0 Minutes 49 Secs. 
5.
Pater Noster, VL 260 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 2 Minutes 37 Secs. 
6.
Autumn, VL 264 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
7.
Fugue in B flat minor, VL 345 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 5 Minutes 43 Secs. 
8.
Pieces (3) on a Theme for Piano: no 1, VL 271 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 54 Secs. 
9.
Pieces (3) on a Theme for Piano: no 2, VL 270 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 2 Minutes 55 Secs. 
10.
Pieces (3) on a Theme for Piano: no 3, VL 269 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 57 Secs. 
11.
Prelude for Piano, VL 294 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 15 Secs. 
12.
Prelude for Piano, VL 295 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 50 Secs. 
13.
Prelude for Piano, VL 298 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 5 Secs. 
14.
Prelude for Piano, VL 304 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 5 Secs. 
15.
Prelude for Piano in D minor, VL 325 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 2 Minutes 58 Secs. 
16.
Prelude for Piano, VL 327 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 10 Secs. 
17.
Prelude for Piano, VL 330 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 24 Secs. 
18.
Prelude for Piano, VL 335 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 40 Secs. 
19.
Prelude for Piano in G major, VL 338/Op. 33 no 1 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 2 Minutes 44 Secs. 
20.
Prelude for Piano, VL 340/Op. 33 no 3 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 15 Secs. 
21.
Prelude for Piano, VL 343/Op. 33 no 5 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 1 Minutes 8 Secs. 
22.
Prelude for Piano, VL 344/Op. 33 no 6 by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909; Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 2 Minutes 10 Secs. 
23.
Quartet for Strings in C minor by Mikolajus Ciurlionis
Performer:  Mûza Rubackyté (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Lithuania 
Date of Recording: 4/1993 
Venue:  Clara Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg 
Length: 23 Minutes 58 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Prelude in D minor, VL 239
Prelude in A minor, VL 241
Prelude in D minor, VL 256
Prelude in B minor, VL 259
Pater Noster, VL 260
Autumn, VL 264
3 Autumn Pieces on a Theme, VL 269-271: No. 1. VL 271
3 Autumn Pieces on a Theme, VL 269-271: No. 2. VL 270
3 Autumn Pieces on a Theme, VL 269-271: No. 3. VL 269
Prelude in D minor, VL 294
Prelude in D minor, VL 295
Impromptu in D minor, VL 298
Prelude, VL 304
Prelude in D minor, VL 325
Prelude in C major, VL 327
Prelude in C major, VL 330
Prelude in A major, VL 335
Prelude in G major, VL 338
Prelude in D minor, VL 340, "Oh, My Dear Mother"
Prelude in G minor, VL 343
Prelude in D minor, VL 344
Fugue in B flat minor, VL 345
String Quartet in C minor, VL 83 (arr. M. Rubackyte for piano): I. Allegro moderato
String Quartet in C minor, VL 83 (arr. M. Rubackyte for piano): II. Andante
String Quartet in C minor, VL 83 (arr. M. Rubackyte for piano): III. Menuet: Grazioso

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