The second concert of the festival - “Double Baltic Contrasts”

19.03.2023., 17:00, Cēsis Concert Hall

Les Percussions de Strasbourg
Viktorija Pakalniece (voice)

Helena Tulve (1972)
Sool for mezzo-soprano and two percussionists
Vykintas Baltakas (1972)
Spicules for four marimbas
Gundega Šmite (1977)
Four Night Songs for voice and percussion
Sidney Corbett (1960)
Unceasing Fabric of the Mind for four percussionists
Thomas Hummel (1962)
Vermächtnis for mezzo-soprano six percussionists and electronics

“.. as sound artists, the Percussions de Strasbourg have contributed to invent – the term is well weighed – modern percussion, its writing and texture.” (Mouvement)

“They have expanded the Western sound beyond its boundaries.” (Hugues Dufourt)

“No matter how you look at it, the catalog of the Percussions de Strasbourg, dedicatee of more than 350 works, is quite simply unique”.
(Guillaume Tion, Libération)

A very special event awaits us at the Cēsis Concert Hall: a performance by the world's best-known percussion ensemble “Les Percussions des Strasbourg” together with Latvian soprano Viktorija Pakalniece.
“Les Percussions des Strasbourg” is a phenomenal, truly unique ensemble, which was formed by the most important representatives of the 20th century avant-garde: Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgar Varese, Iannis Xenakis and others. For more than half a century, the group has stimulated the exploration of sound and the flourishing of contemporary percussion music. It is no exaggeration to call them true innovators. "Les Percussions des Strasbourg” have performed in Berlin, Osaka, Donaueschingen, Athens, New York, Montreal and elsewhere.
Latvian soprano Viktorija Pakalniece has repeatedly proven herself as an excellent interpreter of contemporary music with her high-quality performance and impeccable professionalism.
On the program, inspired by the German composer Thomas Hummel, we will hear works by three Baltic composers — Vykintas Baltakas, Helena Tulve and Gundega Šmite, who will represent the sound worlds of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia; alongside the music of American sound artist Sidney Corbett and Hummel himself.
Helena Tulve has been praised in the international media as “arguably one of Estonia’s most influential composers living and working today" (I Care If You Listen), her music having a “mood [that] is introspective, almost meditational, the textures and harmonies beautifully imagined". (The Guardian)
Tulve's piece on this program explores some of the fundamental questions of the human experience — how do I think? Why is it important to think? Do my thoughts affect reality? How does one purify the mind? Why is loneliness so difficult? —considering them through the images of sea and salt.
In Gundega Šmite’s compositions, “intellectual and intuitive solutions are realized in a gestural balance. The composer's scores are a canvas of subtle textures and details." (
In her work “Four Night Songs”, Šmite draws the listener's attention to the abysses of war, setting texts by authors who themselves experienced war or the consequences of authoritarian regimes: Federico García Lorca, Knut Skujenieks and Euripides.
Vykintas Baltakas is a Lithuanian composer whose works have been brilliantly performed in the most important concert venues of Western Europe. Baltakas “has an enormous gift; he knows exactly what he wants, what he can musically answer for - and he bows to no convention." (Neue Musikzeitung)
American composer Sidney Corbett writes music that combines sensual lyricism with rhythmic complexity. He draws from musical and non-musical sources alike including literature, art, philosophy and theology; this time turning to the poetry of Czesław Miłosz.
Thomas Hummel is a German chemist and composer. Asymmetry, contrasts and the juxtaposition of live sound with recorded musical instruments comprise only part of his creative interests. His work on the program takes inspiration from the text of Russian poet, dissident and pastor Pavel Adelgeim.
This program will be performed twice, in Mannheim and Cēsis.
The concert is supported by the Goethe-Institut and the Cēsis Concert Hall.

“Les Percussions de Strasbourg are subsidised by Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication / DRAC Grand Est, Région Grand Est and Ville de Strasbourg” __________________________________________________________________
About the festival:
Since 2021 “Baltic Music Days” has been organized by the Composer Unions of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Each year the festival takes place in a different Baltic country. The first festival, organized by the Estonian Composers Union, took place online. The second festival was hosted in Kaunas, the 2022 European Capital of Culture. This year, 2023, the festival will take place from March 18-31 in Cēsis and Rīga, Latvia. Nine concerts are planned for the festival, including the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra performing at Cēsis Concert Hall, the State Chamber Orchestra “Sinfonietta Rīga” performing at the Great Guild Hall in Rīga, and the Latvian Radio Choir performing 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.
The festival as a whole will include 11 world premieres by Latvian composers.

This year, the festival’s overall theme is “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.
We have borrowed this theme 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, which has seeped into our daily lives, into our subconscious; a war, which makes us shiver in compassion and demands that we help as much as possible.
“… 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 in 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.

Come and listen to it with us!

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

The festival is organized by Latvian Composers Union and 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