Baltic Music Days 2023 “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” to be held in Latvia

The festival focusing on Baltic contemporary music will take place in Latvia from March 18–31 in Cēsis and Rīga. Nine planned concerts will premiere 11 new works by Latvian composers. The highlights are the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra concert at the Cēsis Concert Hall, the State Chamber Orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga performance at the Great Guild Hall in Rīga, and the Latvian Radio Choir concert at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music. A particularly special highlight of the festival will be a performance by the world-famous percussion ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg on March 19, at Cēsis Concert Hall.

This year, the festival’s overall theme is The Unbearable Lightness of Being which is borrowed from the title of Czech/French writer Milan Kundera’s well-known novel.

"We came to this idea at the war’s start — a war, which unfortunately has not yet ended. A war that has seeped into our daily lives, into our subconscious; a war that makes us shiver in compassion and demands that we help as much as possible," says the artistic director Rolands Kronlaks.

“… for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes”*

Amid the war and the empathy, life, and music continue, offering opportunities for sensitivity and joy. It is unbearably heavy and light at the same time. We have asked the festival’s composers to reflect on their new compositions: is heaviness truly terrible, and lightness wonderful? Is lightness positive and heaviness negative? For the moment, it is only clear that the opposition of heaviness and lightness is the most mysterious and meaningful of all opposites.

*Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984.

Baltic Music Days 2023 will be opened in the Cēsis Concert Hall, where the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and clarinetist Mārtiņš Circenis will perform under the direction of conductor Guntas Kuzmas. At the opening concert, Krists Auznieks' first symphony work ONE, Erkki-Sven Tüür's clarinet concerto Peregrinus Ecstaticus and Lithuanian composer Žibokle Martinaitīte's Saudade will be performed. Anna Veismane, the Latvijas Radio 3 radio host will present the concert bilingually with Rasa Murauskaitė, the radio host at LRT Klasika. The concert broadcast will reach the Estonian Klassikaradio on March 27, hosted by Johanna Mängel.

Les Percussions de Strasbourg will perform at the Cēsis concert hall on Sunday, March 19 at 5 p.m. The percussion ensemble will perform a program inspired by the German composer Thomas Hummel, where you will hear the music of three Baltic composers: Vykintas Baltakas, Helena Tulve, and Gundega Šmite alongside the USA with sound artist Sidney Corbett and Hummel's own music.

At the fourth concert of the festival "CO2", Aigars Raumanis (saxophone) and Aigars Reinis (organ) will perform, for whom Latvian composers have written many new works in recent years, both for solo organ and in duet with saxophone. The program includes a rich and versatile selection of music from Baltic composers, including Tõnu Kõrvits, Andris Dzenitis, Arturs Maskats, Alise Rancāne, Dalia Raudonikytė, Marius Baranauskas, Madara Pētersone and Galina Grigorjeva. The concert will take place in the Riga Cathedral on March 21 at 7 p.m.

Sinfonietta Rīga with conductor Normunds Šnē once again gives listeners the opportunity to experience a recent striking opus — Jānis Petraškevičs impressive chamber symphony Echoing Distances for percussion and chamber orchestra. The work was completed in collaboration with percussionist Guntars Freibergs. The concert will primarily feature Platons Buravickis' new work Spark for orchestra, which can both frighten the listeners and at the same time move them with beautiful, colorful soundscapes. In the performance of Sinfonietta Rīga, Estonian composer Madli Marje Gildemann's work Transpiration which explores evaporation in the plant kingdom and gives a musical look at a process that remains elusive to human senses in everyday life will be performed alongside the Lithuanian composer Justine Repečkaitė and Latvian Jānis Petraškevičs on March 24 at the Riga Great Guild.

The concert entitled Three presents 3 ensembles, one from each Baltic country with three diffferent perspectives on contemporary chamber music. First, the duo of virtuoso harpsichordist Ieva Saliete and accordionist Artūrs Noviks, will perform a program featuring the works of Linda Leimane, Justė Janulytė, Indra Riše, Jānis Petraškevičs and Mirjam Tally. The Chordos String Quartet from Lithuania will present the works of Selga Mence, Kristupas Bubnelis, Vykintas Baltakas and Helena Tulve. The three-part concert will be completed by the unique electro-acoustic Estonian duo Anna-Liisa Eller (kannel) and Taavi Kerikmäe (electronics), whose concert this time will focus on Estonian music created for the ensemble, but will also feature a new piece written especially for the due by Jēkabs Nīmanis.

The Piano Quartet Quadra's concert is postponed to March 29. One of the most remarkable recent works written for the ensemble by written by Andris Dzenītis Towards the Vastness the Clocks Fall Asleep for clarinet and piano quartet will be heard at the concert. According to the composer, the piece is inspired by long, distant hikes along the Latvian seashore and the experience of changing landscapes, moods and textures in the patient journey. In addition, Santa Ratniece and Oļesja Kozlovska, one of the most prominent Latvian composers' known for their elegant and poetic music. Young Lithuanian composer Dominykas Digimas' work Walking Through the Three Points and Estonian composer Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes' Longing for Darkness will also be heard. The new concert venue will be announced on the festival website.

The grand finale of the Baltic Music Days is a concert by the Grammy Award-winning Latvian Radio Choir with conductor Kaspars Putniņš. Ruta Paidere's Magnificat and Mārtiņš Viļums' work will be performed, in which, according to the Latvian Music Information Center, reflect the life and the afterlife, self-immersion, creation and metamorphosis. Lux Aeterna by Vilums is sung in the choral setting. In addition, the closing concert programme will feature works of Nomeda Valančiūtė, Rytis Mažulis and Dream Steam by the Estonian composer Märt-Matis Lill, as well as, Krists Auznieks' Sensus which was recently nominated for a major Latvian music award in the category Best News Work of the Year.

The Baltic Music Days started in 2021. The first festival was organized by the Estonian Music Days festival of the Estonian Composers' Union, and the event was held online due to the pandemic. In 2022, the Lithuanian Composers' Union was the organizer and the event took place in Kaunas European Capital of Culture 2022. This year the festival will take place from 18 to 31 March in Latvia, Cēsis and Riga. The festival will return to Estonia in 2024 as part of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 programme.

Festival website:

The festival is supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation, Baltic Contemporary Music Network, Geothe-Institut Riga, Latvian Concerts, Riga Latvian Society, Concert Hall "Cēsis", Latvian Radio 3 "Klasika", Riga Cathedral