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ClassicsOnline Home » NARBUTAITE, O.: Tres Dei Matris Symphoniae (Kaunas State Choir, Aidija Chamber Choir, Lithuanian National Symphony, Servenikas)
The eloquent, expressive music of Lithuanian neo-romantic composer Onutė Narbutaitė is noted for its sense of aristocratic poise and strong compositional discipline. Her Tres Dei Matris Symphoniae (Three Symphonies of the Mother of God) is not a conventional oratorio but a symphony, or three symphonies with choir which embrace the Revelation, the Birth of Jesus and the Crucifixion in settings of the Ave Maria, Gloria, Stabat Mater and Hildegard von Bingen’s O clarissima Mater. The effect is of hearing something both deeply familiar and eternally new, rich material for personal contemplation.
By Lindsay Koob
American Record Guide
By Hubert Culot
Onutė Narbutaitė (b. 1956)
Tres Dei Matris Symphoniae
Onutė Narbutaitė graduated from the Lithuanian State Conservatory (now the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre), in the composition class of Julius Juzeliūnas, in 1979. From 1979 to 1982 she taught music theory and history at the Klaipėda Faculties of the Lithuanian State Conservatory and since 1982 has been living and working in Vilnius as a freelance composer. In 1997 Narbutaitė was awarded the National Arts and Culture Prize, the highest artistic distinction in Lithuania, for the oratorio Centones meae urbi. She has been also honoured with many other important awards. Her works are performed in many festivals and concerts in Europe, the United States, Canada and South Korea.
Onutė Narbutaitė made her début in the late 1970s, together with the ‘neo-romantic’ generation of like-minded Lithuanian composers. With a wide range of moods and emotions, her entire work is noted for a sense of aristocratic poise and strong compositional discipline; the structural principles of composition take shape in meticulously detailed textures, carefully thought-out proportions between smaller and larger sections and the overall form, with a subtle interplay of minute details. In the hands of skilled performers these structures start to talk and live their own independent lives: elaborately nuanced intertwining melodic lines sound like a conversation between different ‘characters’, at first mildly contradicting and then agreeing with each other. Narbutaitė’s abstract musical narrative is eloquent, expressive and often reminiscent of ‘something deeply familiar’. It was the American musicologist Richard Taruskin who gave probably the most accurate description of her present work: “Not ‘tonal’. Not ‘romantic’. Not ‘retro’. Consonant.”
— Linas Paulauskis
Tres Dei Matris Symphoniae (Three Symphonies of the Mother of God) was commissioned by the Brandenburg State Orchestra and composed in 2002–3. Three large-scale movements embrace three decisive episodes of the New Testament involving Christ and Mary—the Revelation, the Birth of Jesus and the Crucifixion. This triptych is framed by a short introduction (Introitus), which uses fragments of the Song of Songs, and a closing prayer (Oratio) with a text by Hildegard von Bingen. Traditional texts of the Ave Maria, Gloria and Stabat Mater are used in the main movements of the work. All texts are in Latin.
This is not an oratorio in the conventional sense, but rather a symphony, or three symphonies, where the choir, even though entrusted with a very important rôle, is only one of many voices. Often distanced from the directly articulated canonical text, narrated or rather enacted by the instruments, the story becomes more personal and intimate, while at the same time more generalised. Indeed, it was a personal experience, not a ritualistic reiteration of well known truths, which induced the composer to approach issues that have been the subject of contemplation for centuries.
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