Gidon Kremer's De Profundis

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The Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer is a noted advocate for the music of Russian and Eastern European composers, as heard in several albums with the Kremerata Baltica, his chamber orchestra of young players from the Baltic states. "De Profundis," their latest album together, features nearly two centuries of inward-looking works by a dozen composers, from canonical names (Schubert, Sibelius, Shostakovich) to contemporary ones (Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt, Raminta Serksnyte). It's this week’s Full Rotation.

The booklet for "De Profundis" contains Kremer's explanation of the album’s concept: the opening words of Psalm 130, "De profundis clamavi a te, Domine" ("Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord"), which have a unique relevance in today's world of exploitation and repression. In particular, Kremer explains, the "depths" suggest the world’s dependency on oil – both as a source of energy and an impetus for tyrannical regimes.

Driving the point home, the album’s cover features an oil-soaked body of water while several pieces suggest environmental or spiritual themes. Sibelius’s Scene with Cranes is misty and evocative, with the strings spinning an aimless, watery melody. The young Lithuanian composer Raminta Serksnyté supplies his own creepy setting of De Profundis. There are also dark reflections on Russian culture: an adagio from Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, an edgy, dissonant fragment by Alfred Schnittke.

Other works strike a mood of introspection and religiosity including the New York-based Russian composer Lera Auerbach's Sogno di Stabat Mater and Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer transcription of Bach's Lasset uns den nicht zerteilen, from the St. John Passion, BWV 245. Graceful pieces by Georgs Pelecis (Flowering Jasmine) and Piazzolla (Melodia en La menor for bandoneón & strings) lighten the mood and showcase Kremer’s crisp but never flashy playing.

The recording is dedicated to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman and philanthropist convicted of fraud and sentenced to a labor camp in Siberia in a case that critics have said is an attempt by Russian leader Vladimir Putin to silence opponents.

Gidon Kremer, violin
Kremerata Baltica
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