Gigs, gigs, gigs: Baltic Music Days 2021

by 5:4

Another festival that’s recently been announced is an entirely new addition to the annual list of new music events. The Baltic Music Days is in initiative that seeks to bring together contemporary music from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. i first heard suggestions about the possibility of this festival a few years ago (appropriately enough, told to me by a Latvian while i was in Estonia) and it’s a good thing to see it finally taking happening. Despite their proximity, the relationships between these three countries have varied a lot in terms of their interest, openness and understanding of one another. The Baltic Music Days can therefore perhaps serve to consolidate these relationships and, just as importantly, help to shine a much brighter light on what’s going on in their respective new music communities, very little of which we get to experience outside these countries. Personally speaking, from what i’ve encountered in recent years – loads from Estonia, some from Lithuania, pretty much nothing from Latvia – it can only bode well for the future.

Following the model of the Nordic Music Days, the Baltic Music Days will move between the three countries year by year, beginning in Tallinn and Tartu (Estonia) in 2021, Kaunas (Lithuania) in 2022 and Riga (Latvia) in 2023. This year’s inaugural festival will be taking place from 22 April to 2 May, integrated into the Estonian Music Days festival. It’s not clear at this stage what provision will be made for events to be experienced online due to ongoing travel restrictions, but the festival producer has stated that, should it prove necessary, making the entire program available online is being actively considered.

The theme for the first Baltic Music Days (strange how many festivals still cling to the belief that they must have a theme) is ‘DNA’, and while full details are still being finalised, looks set to include performances by the Sinfonietta Riga String Quartet, the Ensemble of Estonian Electronic Music Society, Ansambel U: (Estonia’s foremost new music ensemble), piano duo Kadri-Ann Sumera & Talvi Hunt, YXUS Ensemble, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Latvia’s Quadra Piano Quartet and Twenty Fingers Duo from Lithuania, in addition to a large-scale concert featuring the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. The programme obviously reflects new music from across the Baltic states, and while premières are very far from the be-all and end-all of new music festivals, the majority of them (perhaps understandably, as they’re the hosts) are Estonian, from the likes of Age Veeroos, Liina Sumera, Elis Hallik, Lauri Jõeleht, Mirjam Tally, Maria Kõrvits, Märt-Matis Lill, Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes and Ülo Krigul; as far as i can tell at this stage, the only non-Estonian premières are from Rita Mačiliūnaitė (Lithuania) and Gundega Šmite (Latvia), but aside from the premières the programme looks to be a little more balanced overall.

All the details can be found on the Estonian Music Days website, and there’s more information about the ongoing Baltic initiative via the Baltic Contemporary Music Network.

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