Exhibition “Unfamiliar Čiurlionis. The Vilnius Society of Art I”
29 03 – 27 05 2023
Opening 6 pm, March 29th, 2023
M. K. Čiurlionis House, Savičiaus str. 11, Vilnius
During a short period in Vilnius from 1907 to 1908, Čiurlionis joined the city’s artistic life and strived to revive and strengthen it. His activities in the Lithuanian Art Society are well known, but he also participated in another one, the Vilnius Art Society. At the founding meeting on 29 February 1907, he drafted the Society’s statutes, and at the Society’s first spring exhibition in 1909, he exposed his pastels. The Vilnius Art Society aimed to unite artists of different ethnicities and spread and develop art. The Society was headed by the burgomaster of Vilnius, Michał Węsławski, and his deputy was the painter Ivan Rybakov; its members included Lithuanians Petras Rimša, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, and Antanas Žmuidzinavičius, Poles Józef Bałzukiewicz and Stanisław Filibert Fleury, Jews Lev Antokolsky, Mozes Leibowski, and Ber Zalkind, Russians Vasiliy Barmashov, Boris Vladimirskiy and others. The Society was active from 1908 to 1915, and held annual spring exhibitions in Vilnius, presenting realistic and modern art, and publishing exhibition catalogs in Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian.
The Vilnius Art Society invited the city’s residents to evenings called “Artists’ Saturdays”. They combined a concert program with entertainment, mask parties, and dancing. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, cabarets proliferated in European urban culture, where artists, writers, musicians, and actors gathered, and a satirical spirit prevailed, with cartoons and humorous publications being produced. The Vilnius Art Society also had a cabaret, “The Stray Dog”. The Lithuanian National Museum of Art has preserved an album “Artists’ Saturday No. 2”, created by the members of the Society in 1913. The writer Feodosij Ferenc-Sokolovskij wrote parodies for it, and the artists Moses Leibowski, Ber Zalkind, Herman Torvirt, and Ivan Rybakov drew humorous drawings from the artists’ daily life. In the drawing “Artists’ Saturday No. 2 Editorial Committee”, they portrayed themselves as satyrs – creatures from Greek mythology, half-human, half-goat, symbolizing fun, vitality, and music.
Curator Laima Laučkaitė
Graphic design Akvilė Aglickaitė
Consultant Žygimantas Augustinas
Coordinator Milda Pleitaitė
Organiser: M. K. Čiurlionis House
Partner: The Lithuanian National Museum of Art
Media sponsor: Vilnius: 700 Years Young
Tuesday to Friday: from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday and Sunday: CLOSED.
Čiurlionis’ 147 birthday celebration in London – concert “Čiurlionis: Let‘s Dance“
Concert “Čiurlionis: Let‘s Dance“ in London on 20th September at 7 pm at Razumovsky Academy.
Join us on 20th September at 7 pm for a “Čiurlionis: Let‘s Dance“ concert. Pianists Polina Kogan, Rimantas Vingras, Sonata Zubovienė and Rokas Zubovas will perform watzes, mazurkas, polonaises and polkas by Čiurlionis alongside with same genre works by Britten, Chopin, Debussy, Szymanowski, Brahms, Grieg and Rachmaninoff.
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911) was a fascinating and multifaceted artist, a pioneer of abstract art in Europe, and a representative of the fin de siècle epoch, the symbolism, and art nouveau movements. During his short life, he composed about 400 pieces of music and created about 300 paintings.
This concert is organised by the Lithuanian based organisation VšĮ “Bendruomenės pilietinės veiklos projektai” in collaboration with Razumovsky Academy, London “Santara-Šviesa“ club and Čiurlionis House in Vilnius.
The project is financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.
For further details and booking please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Exhibition of the M. K. Čiurlionis’ creation in London
Dulwich Picture Gallery to present first major UK exhibition of Lithuania’s greatest artist.
This September 21st, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds, the first major UK exhibition of work by the Lithuanian artist and celebrated composer. Building on its reputation for introducing lesser-known artists to UK audiences, the Gallery will bring together over 100 works by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), widely credited as Lithuania’s greatest artist. The exhibition will feature paintings created throughout his short but prolific career, with most travelling to the UK for the first time.
Displayed chronologically, M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds will reveal how Čiurlionis used structure and colour to create works that sit between mythology and reality. The exhibition will highlight the breadth of Čiurlionis’ interests, with a focus on humankind’s relationship to the universe, and examine the themes and motifs that aligned his art to European Symbolism. Bringing together Čiurlionis’ most accomplished masterpieces, including Creation of the World (1905/1906), The Zodiac (1906/1907) and Rex (1909), the exhibition will position him as a singular figure in the history of European art whose ethereal, and occasionally fantastical, works were precursors of abstract painting.
Čiurlionis left a profound imprint on Lithuanian culture and is among the country’s most loved and famous historical figures – his paintings are widely reproduced and his music is often performed. He started his career as a pianist and organist, studying music at the Institute of Music in Warsaw from 1894-1899. It was not until 1902 that he took up drawing and painting, enrolling in the Warsaw School of Fine Arts in 1904. For the following six years, painting dominated his output, although he remained an active and well-regarded composer throughout his short life. He lived with a mental health condition from an early age and died from pneumonia while recuperating from depression in a sanatorium at the age of just 35. Despite dying so young, he left a substantial body work: between 1903 and 1909, he produced around four hundred paintings and etchings, four hundred musical compositions, as well as several literary works and poems.
This exhibition will foreground Čiurlionis’ cycles: the groupings of works he created where scenes and narrative evolve over time. Highlights will include Creation of the World (1905/1906), a series of 13 paintings in which Čiurlionis manifests his own visions of the creation story, and Winter (1907), a cycle of eight paintings, which illustrates his move towards abstraction.
At the heart of the exhibition will be three of the seven ‘Sonata’ cycles that Čiurlionis painted, including the three-part Sonata of the Sea (1908). Named Andante, Allegro and Finale, titles in this cycle mirror the distinct parts of a musical sonata, aligned with the corresponding movements of the sea. Through these works, Čiurlionis reveals his unique approach to uniting the principles of music and painting.
Rex (1909), one of Čiurlionis’ late and best-known artworks, will appear towards the end of the exhibition. Here Čiurlionis presents his vision of our complex and intertwined relationship with the earthly and the celestial. The largest work in the exhibition, it combines many of the elements that Čiurlionis returned to in his work: mythology, folklore and mysticism.
Čiurlionis’ musical compositions will be presented in Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Mausoleum, an immersive aural experience that will introduce visitors to Čiurlionis’ first art form, enriching our understanding of his creative world.
Dulwich Picture Gallery founded in 1811, is the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery. It cares for and displays an outstanding collection of Old Master paintings within Sir John Soane’s pioneering architecture. As an independent gallery, which receives no regular public funding, it pursues its founders’ purpose of presenting art ‘for the inspection of the publick’ while engaging as many people as possible, of all ages and backgrounds, through a creative programme. Entering the gallery space visitors discover a surprising and contemplative experience that encourages the discovery of personal connections with historic works of art – a place to Find Yourself in Art. The Gallery has built a reputation for introducing artists to the UK, with past exhibitions including important artists such as Harald Sohlberg, Nikolai Astrup, Winifred Knights and David Milne.
All works will be on loan from the M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art in Kaunas, Lithuania, where the majority of Čiurlionis’ artworks are housed.
In partnership with the Lithuanian Embassy in London & the Lithuanian Culture Institute
Official Paint Partner: Mylands
Digital Exhibition Guide: Bloomberg Connects
Supported by The Marchus Trust
Exhibition works: 21 09 2022 – 19 03 2022
International conference „Sonata Soundscapes of M. K. Čiurlionis“
International conference „Sonata Soundscapes of M. K. Čiurlionis“ in Druskininkai on July 1-2.
2022 years theme – “Mythologem of Life: Sonata of the Serpent”.
Summer Exhibition | Discovering Čiurlionis’ “The Sea” at M. K. Čiurlionis House in Vilnius
Čiurlionis’ entire oeuvre is imbued with a deep sense of nature. The influence of the pine forest surrounding Druskininkai, the Nemunas river, and the undulating Lithuanian countryside in Čiurlionis’s imagery is well-known and evident in all periods of his work. We do not see the sea so often in Čiurlionis’ paintings, but it is also a very important source of inspiration and a space of symbols, which is present in all forms of the artist’s self-expression. His music, painting, photography, and literature all bear the mark of the images of the sea.
In this exhibition, the metamorphosis of sea imagery, which took place in the artist’s creative laboratory, is punctate. The first images of the sea in Čiurlionis’s oeuvre appear as soon as he begins to paint during his musical studies at the Leipzig Academy of Music, when, during his Christmas holidays, he struggles with loneliness, buys some paint and starts to paint. One cannot yet associate these etudes with the mature world of Čiurlionis’s painting, but already here we can feel the artist’s sensitive experience of the beauty of nature.
In 1903 to 1905, the sea dominates Čiurlionis’ musical thoughts: the first sketches of his symphonic poem “The Sea” are born then, opening a qualitatively new page in his musical thinking. In his music, the sea is now an all-encompassing element, opening up new colour and emotional possibilities, expanding the spaces of expression. Meanwhile, in painting, during this creative period, which one can describe as psychological symbolism, the sea becomes a space for the unfolding of certain symbolic ideas and themes: it is important as a space for the unfolding of the plot in “The Flood”cycle, in the triptych “Rex”, and one of the most famous works of the period, “Serenity”. But here the sea is not yet the main object of representation.
In a letter to his brother Povilas in 1905, the artist confesses his desire to “study nature”. In that year, nature becomes the center of thought in his self-expression which becomes more and more highly abstract. He has not forgotten the sea – in the small sea etudes that were born, the artist captures the rhythms and relationships of the sun, clouds, and waves in very laconic means, creating a sense of space and atmosphere. Here, the sea already becomes the main character. In the autumn of the same year, a visit to the Black Sea and the Caucasus gave us the gift of the sea in Čiurlionis’ photographs. Mountains and the sea, wind and frenzied waves, the play of sunlight on the vastness of the sea – these are the subjects of his photographs, revealing a new interest in the spaces of marine expression.
Between 1907 and 1908, the sea once again became the central subject of the artist’s work: at this time, he orchestrated the final version of the symphonic poem “The Sea”, and composed the triptych for piano “Three Little Landscapes of Marės (the Sea)”, and painted the three-movement “Sonata of the Sea” in the summer of 1908. In all three monumental works, the sea becomes a symbolic space of expression. Čiurlionis feels very confident in capturing the most subtle elements of the sea’s expression, enriching them with meanings, signs, and metaphors. His small literary piece “The Sea”, written at the same time as an illustration of the programmatic symphonic poem “The Sea”, adds another layer of thought to Čiurlionis’ marinist expression. In the summer and autumn of 1908, he composed several piano miniatures, filled with the space of the sea and the imagery of the marine element, in preparation for the composition of his planned opera “Jūratė”.
The exhibition Discovering Čiurlionis’ “The Sea” runs until 15 September.
M. K. ČIURLIONIS HOUSE OPENING HOURS:
Tuesday to Friday: from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday, Saturday and Sunday: CLOSED.
￼The Dark Arts: Aleksandra Waliszewska and the symbolism from the East and North
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw invites you to the opening of the exhibition “The Dark Arts: Aleksandra Waliszewska and the Symbolism from the East and North” on the 3rd of June to the Museum on the Vistula.
In her Warsaw studio, Aleksandra Waliszewska creates vivid, atmospheric paintings that speak to a massive international audience. Her work appeals equally to museum and gallery audiences, as well as to her wide international following on social media. The artist’s popular reach can be attributed to the power of her visual storytelling. Waliszewska’s figurative art is rooted in numerous sources – gothic stories, pagan mythology, and motifs borrowed from mediaeval manuscripts. Her pictorial world is populated with upiórs (the Slavic term for the living dead), vampires, possessed girls, bloodthirsty zombies, lady knights on horseback and human-like cats.
Entitled „The Dark Arts”, this exhibition is the most extensive public display of Aleksandra Waliszewska’s works to date. Working closely with the artist, the show’s curators have chosen to display iconic examples of her vast oeuvre alongside historical works of other artists. The exhibition invites the viewer to see her mythological tropes, apocalyptic scenarios, and charged landscapes in a broader context. The settings of her paintings – forests and swamps, lost highways, and gloomy housing estates—evoke the specificity of Polish and Baltic landscapes. Waliszewska’s works seem to operate using the logic of dreams and her themes conjure to primal emotions: love, desire and fear of death.
„The Dark Arts” allows the viewer to plunge into the artist’s fantastical visual universe while also pointing to her indebtedness to art history, specifically the Symbolist movement from the turn of the twentieth century. Symbolism emerged as a decadent response to the imminent collapse of the old-world order; this timely movement resonates with our own alarmist era of mega-change and global instability. Waliszewska’s admiration for artists beyond the Western European art history canon forms basis of the exhibition’s transhistorical dialogue—featuring impressive examples of Polish, Czech, Ukrainian and Baltic Symbolist works. The Dark Arts features works by Mikalojus Čiurlionis (Lithuanian), Jaroslav Panuška (Czech), Kristjan Raud (Estonian) or Teodors Ūders (Latvian) among many others. Of particular importance to Waliszewska are certain Polish forbears, including Bolesław Biegas, Mieczysław Jakimowicz, Edward Okuń, Jan Rembowski, Marian Wawrzeniecki and Witold Wojtkiewicz who are prominently featured in the display. Also present are members of the artist’s family—her great-grandmother, a famous children’s author, her sculptor grandmother, and artist mother. From an early age, Waliszewska was steeped in various methods of storytelling through images and the direct contribution of this unusual artist family will be foregrounded for the first time in this exhibition.
Visitors will see over one hundred and thirty works by Aleksandra Waliszewska (including never before exhibited oil paintings) and over eighty historical works that contextualize and give historical perspective on her unique art practice.
Maria Anto, Bolesław Biegas, Wanda Bibrowicz, Erna von Brinckmann, Bernhard Borchert, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Frans Crabbe van Espleghem, Anna Dębska, Kazimiera Dębska, Emīlija Gruzīte, Marian Henel, Mieczysław Jakimowicz, Marcė Katiliūtė, Theodor Kittelsen, Erich Kügelgen, Konstanty Laszczka, Bronisław Linke, Mykola Murashko, Teofil Ociepka, Edward Okuń, Jaroslav Panuška, Juozas Pjaulokas, Aleksander Promet, Yevmen Pschechenko, Kristjan Raud, Vaclovas Ratas-Rataiskis, Jan Rembowski, Hugo Simberg, Gustavs Šķilters, Karel Šlenger, Nikolai Triik, Teodors Ūders, Vitkauskas, Joanna Waliszewska, Marian Wawrzeniecki, Witold Wojtkiewicz, Andrzej Wróblewski, Rihards Zariņš, Bogdan Ziętek, Antanas Žmuidzinavičius, Stefan Żechowski.
Curators: Alison M. Gingeras, Natalia Sielewicz
Partners of the Exhibition
Lithuanian Culture Institute, Korn Ferry, Friends of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Huncwot
The Museum is funded by Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
The premises and selected projects are funded by the City of Warsaw
Patrons of the Museum and the Collection: EY, Allegro
Strategic Partners of the Museum: Ergo Hestia, Hestia Artistic Journey Foundation
Legal advisor: DZP
Media cooperation: „Pismo. Magazyn Opinii”, „Notes Na 6 Tygodni”, „Zwierciadło”
“Resounding Sea of Colour. Debussy and Čiurlionis”
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) Three Sketches for Symphony Orchestra “The Sea”
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875 – 1911) Symphonic poem “The Sea”
Transcriptions for piano four hands
Duo Zubovas: Sonata Zubovienė and Rokas Zubovas, piano
The program “Resounding Sea of Colours. Debussy and Čiurlionis” unites two symphonic masterpieces from the early twentieth century adapted for one piano four hands.
Debussy and Čiurlionis started composing their majestic marinist opuses in the same year, 1903. Debussy completed The Three Sketches for Symphony Orchestra “La Mer” in 1905. In the same year, the work was performed in Paris, but without much success – the language of the work was too modern for the listenner. In order to make the work accessible to wider audience, the composer also prepared and published an adaptation of the work for one piano four hands in 1905.
Čiurlionis completed his monumental symphonic poem “The Sea” in 1907, but the work was performed only in 1936, twenty-five years after composer’s death. The adaptation of Čiurlionis’ “The Sea” for piano four hands was prepared by the composer’s youngest sister Jadvyga Čiurlionytė around 1925. The adaptation, which until now remained only in manuscript format, is currently being restored and edited for the first public performance.
In 2022, these two monumental seminal early twentieth-century works will be performed for the first time in one program, revealing the kinship between the creative aspirations and ideas of two early twentieth- century geniuses, as well as highlighting the surrounding cultural context.. The program will also present for the first time a version of Čiurlionis’ symphonic poem “The Sea” for piano four hands.
In 2022, Duo Zubovas celebrates the 25th anniversary of their creative career. The Duo’s debut concert took place in Chicago in 1997. The Duo has performed in major American and Canadian cities, Argentina and Uruguay, many European countries (Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine), as well as Russia, Belarus, and Iran.
Duo Zubovas is regularly invited to participate in international festivals: France (Berlioz, 2003), Italy (Cita di Castello, 2004), Norway (Norskmusikfestucke, 2001), Slovenia (Ljubljana, 2010), Russia (Bachosluzheniye, 2009), Germany (Usedom, 2011 ), Finland (Rauma, 2013), Belarus (Piano Duo Festival, 2017), Ukraine (Kiev Easter Music Festival, 2018), the Netherlands (Festival Vocallis, 2021), and Lithuania (“Pažaislis”, “Marių klavyrai”,“ Klaipėdos pavasaris”, “Jauna muzika”,“Permainų muzika”,“ Gaida ”, Šiauliai Piano Duo Festival”, etc.). Pianists carry out educational programs in Lithuanian cities, in 2005-2019 they organized the annual international music and ecology festival “Land of the Disobedient” in Neringa.
Zubovas Duo has performed with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the Belarusian State Symphony Orchestra, the Kherson Symphony Orchestra, the Kaunas Symphony Orchestra, Šiauliai, Klaipėda, St. Christopher and Kaliningrad Philharmonic chamber orchestras, Vilnius String Quartet, Čiurlionis Quartet, as well as “Aukuras”, “Aidija”, Vilnius University, “Jauna muzika”, and “Dainava” (Chicago) choirs. The Duo performed world premieres of works written for it by more than 10 different composers.
For more information: Impetus musicus
Dulwich Picture Gallery Announces M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds Exhibition
The exhibition is set to go on display at the gallery from the 21st September.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery has announced details of its upcoming Autumn exhibition, which will be the first UK exhibition of work by the Lithuanian artist and celebrated composer M.K. Čiurlionis.
This new display will bring together over 100 pieces by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), widely credited as Lithuania’s greatest artist. The exhibition will feature paintings created throughout his short but prolific career, with most travelling to the UK for the first time.
On display in chronological order, M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds will explore how he used tructure and colour to create works that sit between mythology and reality. The exhibition will highlight the breadth of Čiurlionis’ interests, with a focus on humankind’s relationship to the universe, and examine the themes and motifs that aligned his art to European Symbolism. This will be seen through works such as Creation of the World (1905/1906), The Zodiac (1906/1907) and Rex (1909).
This exhibition will also oreground Čiurlionis’ cycles: the groupings of works he created where scenes and narrative evolve over time. Highlights will include Creation of the World (1905/1906), a series of 13 paintings in which Čiurlionis manifests his own visions of the creation story, and Winter (1907), a cycle of eight paintings, which illustrates his move towards abstraction.
But it will also highlight his musical compositions through an immersive aural experience that will introduce visitors to Čiurlionis’ first art form, to help develop understanding of his creative world.
The exhibition is curated by Kathleen Soriano, independent curator and broadcaster. Soriano said: “In 1866, the writer Emile Zola defined a work of art as ‘a corner of creation seen through a temperament’, and via Čiurlionis’ aesthetic and sensitive yet powerful work, we see glimpses of the man whose intense and passionate creativity was cruelly cut short at the age of 35. In this exhibition Čiurlionis invites us all to travel with him between worlds – from the celestial to the earthly, the physical to the spiritual, from music to painting, the fantastical to the real, and from the figurative to the abstract.”
M.K. Čiurlionis: Between Worlds will be on display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery from the 21st September until the 19th March 2023.
Source: Love London Love Culture
Concert recording. Dialogues with Čiurlionis. Dmitry Mayboroda (piano)
“Dialogues with Čiurlionis”
Dmitry Mayboroda – piano (Russia-Germany)
2021 November 29
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Organizer – M. K. Čiurlionis House in Vilnius
Partner – National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
The project was financed by the Lithuanian Council of Culture
A unique, romantic concert program “Dialogues with Čiurlionis” performed by Dmitry Mayboroda (Germany, Russia), one of the best pianists of the young generation. The program evokes a creative dialogue between three composers and pianists of the early twentieth century – Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Nikolai Medtner. It consisted preludes and variations by M. K. Čiurlionis framed by Medtner’s poetic and nostalgic Sonata “Reminiscenza”, op. 38 Nr. 1, composed in 1918, and the thunderous Second piano Sonata in B minor op. 36, by Rachmaninov, composed in 1913 and revised in 1931.
Dmitry Mayboroda introduced the program by saying: “Thinking about this program, I really wanted to show the difference between Čiurlionis’ music genres, as well as to compare very frequently performed works like Nocturne op. 6, and very rarely performed variations of ‘Sefaa Esec’.”
This concert is a part of M. K. Čiurlionis House project “Čiurlionis Dialogues”. Which the main aim is to represent Čiurlionis legacy and its diversity through the cultural contexts of others by showing Lithuanian culture lovers’ interpretations of Čiurlionis’ works born in other countries of the world and played by well known, international recognition gained performers.
Playlist – Here.
M. K. Čiurlionis House info.
Kerem and Zubovas premiere Čiurlionis’ ‘Without Saying Goodbye’
VILNIUS, December 8th — This Wednesday, Estonian composer and violinist Mihkel Kerem and Lithuanian pianist Rokas Zubovas organised an important concert at the Vilnius Town Hall in occasion of the Vilnius 700 project, a long-term project to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Vilnius which will take place in 2023. The concert brought together around 150 people at Vilniaus Rotušė.
After playing pieces from well-known composers from the 19th and 20th century, such as Béla Bartók, Heino Eller, Leoš Janáček and Jean Sibelius, the two musicians played the composition ‘Without Saying Goodbye’ („Neatsisveikinęs“ in Lithuanian) that Mihkel Kerem, who has already composed over 160 pieces, created over lost musical sketches of the famed Lithuanian composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis who died in 1911.
The musician and painter M.K. Čiurlionis has been an important symbol of Lithuanian music and art, having participated in organising the first Exhibition of Lithuanian Art of 1907, among other events. He was also one of the 19 founders of the Lithuanian Art Society. Nowadays, Čiurlionis is regarded as a national artist and is a symbolic figure of Lithuanian art.
In a small side room of Vilnius Town Hall (Vilniaus Rotušė), Kerem and Zubovas get ready for their concert and discuss the event’s meaning.
Why was Vilniaus Rotušė chosen?
Indeed, the Town Hall was first mentioned in 1432; since then, it was rebuilt many times. The current building dates back to 1799. Today, it’s a representative monument of Lithuania, which is often visited by foreign officials, such as George W. Bush or Queen Elizabeth II.
“We’re back in this center where so much of history of Vilnius and Lithuania has happened and keeps happening,” added Kerem.
An exceptional concert
“I think this is quite a special concert because we also play other nationalist composers. All of them were trying to create their own unique musical language based on very specific national idioms, nature and dances. The whole program is, in a way, a map of Europe in the early 20thcentury,” remarked Rokas Zubovas.
The two musicians played various music from Hungary, Estonia, Czech Republic and Finland, covering most of Eastern Europe from the North to the South.
“Not only in their own language, with Czech music of course there was a huge musical culture before. But let’s look at Lithuania, Estonia or Finland as well; we didn’t have any musical culture — it was a national awakening,” continued Mihkel Kerem.
After so many years, the legacy persists
“It’s exceptional in a sense that still, after more than 110 years after Čiurlionis died, there is still new material that surfaces and new music compositions that are written on-top of it,” pondered Zubovas, the great-grandson of M.K. Čiurlionis. The pianist is very active in making a name for his great-grandfather.
Čiurlionis died on the 10th of April 1911 of pneumonia, at the age of 35 years old.
“About 15 years ago, a manuscript of Čiurlionis’ “Sonata for violin” was uncovered among papers of his younger sister Jadvyga Čiurlionytė. These sketches of Čiurlionis’ work were just sitting, waiting for someone to touch them. I then suggested to Mihkel to look at them because he was both a violinist and composer. So, I thought that maybe these sketches should be looked at by a composer who’s also a violinist,” explained Zubovas.
‘Without Saying Goodbye’: a complicated piece to rebuild
“The sketches are very sparse and clearly were being written as a piece. It feels like he had written a lot of it and that quite a large chunk of it was missing… such as the beginning. There is no kind of basic material to really complete the piece, and I had to do something else with it, to mature this wonderful music, so it could come out somehow,” the Estonian composer described ‘Without Saying Goodbye’.
Since 2012, this project was on the back of Mihkel Kerem’s mind, having met and played with Rokas Zubovas at a concert in Estonia.
“In this work that I created, I made it into like a little ‘pedestal’ to bring these bits of genius out from the page. Because to play them as they are there really feels like you’re playing the composer’s rough thoughts and can’t present it like this. Some of it is great, some of it is really complete and… a lot of it is just two notes, four chords, something messed up, something missing. But I used all of it, and so I wrote kind of my own piece around it as like a cushion to support his work,” clarified Mihkel Kerem.
A piece with historical value
“Here we’re talking about something that was written in the late 19th century: approximately around 1897-1898, nobody knows exactly, because small sketches are all we have. Which historically would make it the very first Lithuanian chamber-sonata,” explained the Lithuanian pianist.
Historically, the first Lithuanian chamber-sonata, a musical composition usually comprised of four movements and is commonly played at secular events, was composed by Juozas Gruodis with his ‘Sonata for violin and piano in D minor’ written in 1922. If completed 25 years earlier, this piece made by Čiurlionis, would have been the first.
“I suppose that makes Čiurlionis very special, a piece that- if it would have been completed -would have been the first, is premiered 125 years later,” concluded Kerem.
‘Without Saying Goodbye’ — living beyond the grave as an artist
“I imagine this as a link between his youth because the piece was written when he was very young. But also it is the very end of his life, because it feels that there are bits that you just remember from his earlier life; it’s still a very tragic way he died, it’s a problematic thing isn’t it? So it represents his life that was cut short and also that he couldn’t say ‘goodbye’ or even ‘hello’ to his little daughter that he never saw,” said Kerem justifying the name of the piece.
Unfortunately, Čiurlionis never saw his daughter Danutė, who was born on June 12th1910. At the time, he was held at the “Czerwony Dwór” (Red Manor) hospital near Warsaw, where he caught a cold and died shortly after of pneumonia, on the April 10th 1911.
“People or composers and artists like Čiurlionis really don’t plan to die, and leave quite a lot to finish for the future generations. So, it is as if they’re never saying ‘goodbye’. You’re still finding things as if he just left the room and came back. His musical list of compositions becomes fuller and fuller even though he’s been dead for more than a hundred years,” wrapped up Rokas Zubovas.
—for The Lithuania Tribune by Lukas BARBIER (www.lukasbarbier.com)