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Supernova

by Gerald Carpenter

FLY LIKE AN EGLE: The majestic Lithuanian-born pianist Egle
Januleviciute has just released her first album. It is called
Johann Sebastian Bach and contains her inimitable readings of
Bach’s English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, Italian Concerto, Partita
No. 2 in C Minor, and three Organ Choral Preludes (arranged by
Ferruccio Busoni). In the credit-where-credit-is-due department, I
must once again compliment Santa Barbara engineer Barbara Hirsch of
Opus 1 on the clarity and sensitivity of her recording.

Although she probably does not see herself that way, Egle’s
playing is “romantic.” She is a musician of extraordinary
discipline, but every note that she plays is saturated with
emotion. When you can say this of a pianist playing Bach, observing
at the same time the almost uncanny articulation of the music’s
complexity, then you know you are witnessing something rare and
remarkable. She is also of interest as a kind of bridge between the
Cold War system, in which she was born and educated, and the
so-called New World Order, which is still struggling to establish
itself in the ruins of the Berlin Wall.

I had a couple of questions for Egle about this, and the release
of her CD seemed like as good an occasion as any to ask them. In
the first place, I wondered what difference, if any, the collapse
of the Cold War system would make to the status of classical music
in her country, the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union.

“So far,” she said, “the relative ‘opening of the walls’ has
allowed the musicians to travel more — meaning more exposure and
more international venues. For instance, in 1989, I was the first
Lithuanian pianist in 40 years to play the Robert Casadesus
International Piano Competition in Cleveland. (I won.) Moscow would
send Russian pianists almost exclusively during Soviet times.
Fifteen years after the collapse, this has resulted in a huge
‘leakage’ of talented performers looking for more performance
opportunities than in their own economically struggling countries.
Now, only one out of six or so of the best Lithuanian pianists is
currently working in Lithuania.”

I asked her to compare the musical education she received in
Lithuania to that available in the States. She said, “There is one
thing that makes Eastern European musical education better:
specialized music schools for children, often combining general
education with music subjects. I went to the same school in the
same building for 11 years, and every day we had math, languages,
science, plus solfeggio, choir, music theory, history, and specific
private instruction in the chosen instrument. With few exceptions,
musical education in the U.S. is left in private hands [until the
student gets to] college, when many experience a certain degree of
shock at how behind they are. … Teaching at UCSB, I encountered
many kids wanting to enter the Bachelor of Music program, who had
no realistic idea of their level of skills and musical knowledge
(or the lack of it).”

Egle’s formative years were spent in Lithuania, but she has also
spent quite a bit of time in Europe. “I spent almost three years
studying in London. … Needless to say, one can go to a different
great concert or opera or play every day while living in London
(and I had great student discounts!). I’ve also spent three summers
in Weimar (Germany) playing in master classes, where I heard
hundreds of talented young pianists from the widest selection of
countries (mostly European) in each international competition I
entered (Brussels, Tokyo, Glasgow, Bolzano). Different countries
have certain distinctive features in their piano schools. It is
very difficult for me to talk about interpretations without
specifics and actual music, but German and Russian pianists will
very likely have different outlooks.” Egle’s CD is on Eroica
(JDT3281), and will be available at eroica.com.

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