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Vytautas Bacevičius (1905-70) is little more than a name outside his native Lithuania. In his highly informative booklet note, Malcolm MacDonald details several of the vicissitudes that beset this combative, mercurial creator. The music is like the man: volatile and eruptive with episodes of lyricism, charm and humour. His radicalism left him marginalised both in his native Lithuania and during his long, unresolved exile in the US.

Bacevičius saw himself as the successor to Scriabin, but with influences including Varèse, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. The seven works in the ‘Mot’ series (literally meaning ‘Word’) were not conceived as a cycle per se but rather as an occasional series of fantasias or studies.

Mots 1 and 3-6 are for piano; Mot 2 is for organ and Mot 7 is his sole work for two pianos. Collectively, they provide a fascinating window into the creative process of a hugely neglected artist of substantial attainment. The first four Mots share several features in common: free tonality with some atonal passages arising naturally from the harmonic context; great rhythmic variety; and a concentration of musical thought. In the later Mots comes an ever more advanced language, eschewing tonal centres or bar lines, notably in Nos 6-7.

Gabrielius Alekna is a most persuasive exponent, his interpretations the product of super technique and careful analysis. Matthew Lewis plays the organ in Mot 2 with aplomb, giving this longest Mot the weight it requires, while Oppens provides exemplary support in the Seventh. Toccata Classics’ sound is excellent; strongly recommended.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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