In Baltic Renaissance – a programme touring Scotland this week – the Scottish Ensemble presented a cross-section of such works, interspersed with early English music by Byrd and Purcell, delivered seamlessly and rather like an uninterrupted drive-time medley on Classic FM.
These included pieces by Lithuanian Bronius Kutaviçius, Latvian Peteris Vasks and the Estonians Erkki-Sven Tüür and Arvo Pärt, all of whom seem most at home in luminescent minimalism, combined with a lyricism that is hauntingly evocative.
Such characteristics result in instant captivation, evoking the same inner warmth as a glass of mulled wine, but occasionally give way to prolixity.
The most substantial work – Vasks’ free-thinking concerto for violin and strings Distant Light – was a case in point. Veering frequently into surreal territory, it is fresh and invigorating, from the Schnittke-esque final cadenza to a central melody of heart-melting intensity.
Jonathan Morton, the Ensemble’s director, spun out the solo line with a foot-stamping sense of belief in its folksy quirks and lyrical sweetness. It just goes on a bit.
No mistaking the succinct rock influences in Tüür’s energised Action and Illusion, or the mystical stillness (despite a tense start) of the Pärt. But the obsessive scratching of Kutaviçius’s The Gates of Jerusalem held limited fascination, unlike the palate-cleansing refinement of the Purcell and Byrd.