Prequel to a Concert Review: Gidon Kremer’s comments about De Profundis

Last night, Viola and I had the distinct pleasure of hearing the Kremerata Baltica, the ensemble formed and led by Gidon Kremer, thanks to the Harris Theater in Chicago. As a preface to our review, the following was taken from the concert program. Kremerata Baltica is currently on a tour in support of its most recent album release, De Profundis.

The following message, penned by Kremer, provides some insight into the mindset that went into the project and release. It also provides some perspective on the music performed last night, since some of the music is on De Profundis.  I found these words to be quite profound and offers a glimpse into the heart from one of today’s great artists.

“Out of the depths I cry to you.” Countless poets and musicians have used these timeless words from Psalm 130. I feel they are especially urgent in our time, when the world is afflicted with greed, corruption, and false prophets.  Today, oil is a highly desirable commodity. It is a hidden substance extracted from the depths of the Earth. Music is likewise a fuel. Fuel for the soul. Far more precious than oil, it is felt in the impenetrable depths of our conscious. Can oil and music mix? In a positive sense, both are sources of energy that can serve the people.

But in today’s world, oil is also used to sustain tyrannical regimes, be it in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Myanmar, or Russia. Despite painting themselves as advocates of democracy, their rulers engage in a Soviet-style suppression of free speech, the show trials, and presumption of guilt. In these Orwellian states, everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. Drunk on oil, the worshippers of the golden calf seek to silence opposition and build walls between peoples and states. Contrary to that, we, the worshippers of Art, believe it is our duty to build bridges and to stand up in support of those who are trying to establish a more democratic society, those who are fighting for transparency and truth. Therefore, I would like to dedicate De Profundis to all those who refuse to be silenced, who understand the real freedom is within us.

Yet my intention is not to make De Profundis a political statement, for politics represents only the surface of things, while the artists featured on this record affirm a deep-rooted personal expression that can resonate within anyone. For music, unlike authoritarian rulers, speaks with an outstretched hand, not with a clenched fist. It is an offering to the listener, and its profundity can only be established on the basis of service, not on the grounds of self-indulgence or meaningless stardom.

So, “out of the depths” these artists cry out for a better world, one that is not dominated by the superficiality of sales, figures, ratings, self-promotion, and “small-talk”. Their spiritual missive, like oil, can sustain humans by appealing to their profoundest emotions, by letting them open up, become more conscious, rather than “forget themselves.” Each of the twelve pieces selected for this album sends its own individual message to the listener, one that my colleagues from Kremerata Baltica and I have tried to illuminate. Now, it is up to you, dear listener, to allow this message to fuel your soul.

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