For the Latvian violinist, Raminta Šerkšnytė’s 2021 composition This too shall pass is a multifaceted and liberating work in these challenging times

Gidon Kremer cr Angie Kremer

Photo: Angie Kremer/ECM records

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I think the Lithuanian composer Raminta Šerkšnytė is one of the best in the Baltic region right now. Kremerata Baltica has premiered several of her works in the past, and in 2021 I received the score for This too shall pass, an eight-minute work for violin, cello and vibraphone. It’s undeniably a beautiful piece and a good introduction for people who don’t know Raminta’s work; and I chose it because I don’t think contemporary music should be ignored, and my duty is to serve living composers as well as dead ones.

Raminta has said that the piece ‘expresses the transience of everything that happens in the natural world and in human lives’. But to my mind, what makes music so special is that everyone in the concert hall will listen differently and take away something unique from the experience. Only you can decide on the story behind the bar-lines! Also, I like composers who use sound to say something that would be very hard to translate into words, and this is a piece I think you can see as a description of our time. Raminta often says her works are easy to understand, but with your heart rather than your brain.


Photo: Angie Kremer/ECM records

Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica at the world premiere of This too shall pass in 2021

Kremerata Baltica premiered This too shall pass in September 2021 at the Kronberg Academy Festival, and a month later we performed it in Kyiv, for the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar tragedy in Ukraine. Just a few months later came the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I think we can see in this piece a commentary on the dramatic situation in the world; there are so many multidimensional crises we have to worry about, including terror in the Middle East, as well as our powerlessness to solve them. But the overriding emotion I take from the piece is one of liberation. As the title suggests, it delivers a statement that is not comforting but gives a sense of hope. It’s something we can all associate with, and which is very necessary for us all in these times.

For this, Raminta uses a kind of tonal minimalism in the same way that Anton Webern and the composers of the Second Viennese School delivered clear, unadorned scores that minimised the number of sounds. Anything unnecessary is stripped away. Many musicians and composers strive for a sense of perfection in their work, but for me, listening to something imperfect gives a feeling of humanity. I think of the words of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who I was lucky enough to work with many times: ‘Perfection kills beauty.’ There is something beautiful in This too shall pass, and every bar contains something different to explore.

I chose this piece to begin Kremerata Baltica’s latest project Songs of Fate, a collection of short pieces relating to fate, injustice and tragedy, and the response of Baltic composers to elements in all of those things. In our troubled times there are certain values that should never be questioned and which need to be defended, as I hope comes across in the new recording. If I were introducing This too shall pass to a student, I’d advise them not to use it as a showpiece for them to try and show off, but to look inside themselves and discover an element of oneself that is the most valuable to them, and which they would want to associate with this music.


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