Composer Ciurlionis showed how Lithuania sounds
Ciurlionis, you say? For the uninitiated in Lithuanian culture: Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis was the greatest composer the country produced, he was also one of the most important visual artists and a more than creditable writer. When Ciurlionis died in 1911, he left behind some 400 pieces of music and 300 paintings – and he was only thirty-five. The Limburg festival Vocallis, which took place on Friday, putted a spotlight on multi-talented Ciurlionis in its opening weekend.
Pianist Rokas Zubovas (1966) knows a handy formula for the specific gravity of Ciurlionis: “Compare it with Norway: suppose you put painter Edvard Munch and composer Edvard Grieg together in one person, then you have a nice idea.” On Friday, Zubovas and his wife, pianist Sonata Deveikyté-Zuboviené, played a ‘narrative concert’ in which Ciurlionis’ music, art and literature came together.
Pianist becomes actor
The life of Zubovas is quite intertwined with that of Ciurlionis. To begin with, he is a great-grandson of the composer-artist. In 1986 he won joint first prize in the Ciurlionis Piano Competition, which he retrospectively calls “the most important event in my life.” As a pianist, Zubovas is one of the foremost performers and advocates of his ancestor, and when he was involved as a musical advisor in the biographical film Letters to Sofija (2013) to his own surprise, he was asked to play the lead role. “I’m not an actor, but I can do things that actors can’t,” says Zubovas. The film was screened in Maastricht on Saturday afternoon.
In retrospect it is easy to say that Zubovas was born to serve as an apostle of Ciurlionis. But it wasn’t like that, he says: „Ciurlionis was not in my family big deal. I am very grateful to them for that. I wasn’t involved with him until I had to play his music at the conservatory – I met him first as a colleague, later as a family. And only during the filming did I delve into his personality. But it is strange if you have been so intensively involved with someone for over thirty years. I feel like I’ve become more and more like him.”
On Friday evening, Zubovas and his wife played a quatre-mains version of Ciurlionis’ most famous work, the symphonic poem Mice (‘In the forest’): „That is the symphonic representation of Lithuania, the absolute number 1 in the canon. We know from his letters that Ciurlionis himself played it on the piano for his friends,” explains Zubovas. After that there is “a dialogue between music and literature”, in which paintings are also shown. Zubovas plays piano solo pieces and Sonata reads. In this way visitors can form an image of Ciurlionis’ synaesthetic working method: he saw colors with sounds and vice versa. “He had an antenna for all that was new, and at the same time he was a romantic at heart.”
In the concert they follow Ciurlionis’ style development chronologically. In the beginning, around 1900, he focused on the scenic beauty of Lithuania. His interest then shifted to what Zubovas calls “the fairy tale.” „We end with the piano variations The sea from 1908, which are already very abstract. We show the painting cycle Sonata of the Zee from the same time and there is a literary fragment about the sea.”
The man who would become a national hero did not live to see Lithuania’s independence in 1918. Zubovas: “Ciurlionis led an intense life, smoked a lot, hardly ate and only drank very sweet tea. That lifestyle wrecked his body and in 1910 he collapsed. He spent the last year and a half of his life in a sanatorium, where he died of pneumonia.”
Festival Vocallis, 22/10 to 7/11, at various locations in South Limburg. Inl: festivalvocallis.nl
NRC Culture Guide
New colours for Čiurlionis’ music: flute joins piano in the new arrangements
Music Information Centre Lithuania has published Lithuania’s greatest composer and painter of all time Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis works’ arrangements for flute and piano Lakštingala (The Nightingale). The arrangements were made and proposed to be published by the members of the ensemble Duo Flupia – flutist Vilmantė Kaziulytė and pianist Kristina Ivanauskaite-Čiurilienė.
When the pianist Kristina Ivanauskaitė-Čiurilienė and the flutist Vilmantė Kaziulytė launched a chamber ensemble Duo FluPia, a natural desire to approach the music of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis born very naturally, as both Kristina and Vilmantė had been familiar with the composer’s music since childhood.
The initial inspiration arrived in 2015 when Kristina’s ear caught the song of a nightingale through an open window during a live performance of one of Čiurlionis’ piano miniatures titled, aptly, The Nightingale. The dialogue between the piano and the real bird eventually prompted the arrangement of a piece for flute and piano. Later, the two musicians arranged seven other piano compositions by Čiurlionis.
The arrangements are originally for flute and piano, but the set may also be performed by violin and piano. It is intended for anyone, from students to professional musicians, who want to include Čiurlionis’ music into their repertoire.
The arrangements are based on M. K. Čiurlionis’ early pieces. Such as Nocturne in F-sharp minor (VL 178) which include a prevailing pastoral and contemplative mood, subtle shades of harmonic changes. Also, the pieces written in the summer of 1901 in Druskininkai (VL 186, VL 187) which bear many features of Lithuanian folk songs. The remaining arrangements are based on works created after studies at the Leipzig conservatory (VL 239, VL 248, VL 268, VL 270, VL 294). The predominant chromatic harmonic language and intense polyphonic factures reveal a considerably more concentrated set of the composer’s emotions.
While setting up the eight miniatures, Kristina and Vilmantė scrutinised the compilations of the composer’s piano compositions edited by Jadvyga Čiurlionytė, Vytautas Landsbergis and Darius Kučinskas. Broadly speaking, the arrangements by Duo FluPia are based on these publications, yet they feature a number of individual interpretational nuances. Compared to the original pieces, the sound has become more ornate; the new arrangements reveal timbral dialogues between piano and flute, while the aforementioned The Nightingale now features a canon.
The activities and publications of the Music Information Center Lithuania are financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.
Translated from the Lithuanian by Darius Krasauskas, edited by Howard Jarvis
Information prepared by the Music Information Centre Lithuania
Photos by Tomas Terekas
New Sheet Music of Čiurlionis Piano Works – Out Now
In collaboration with the musicologist Vytautas Landsbergis and the pianist Rokas Zubovas, who worked as editors, the Music Information Centre Lithuania has released two sheet music compilations of piano works by Lithuania’s greatest composer and painter of all time, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis.
A towering figure in the history of Lithuanian music, Čiurlionis (1875–1911) was an artist who embodied the aspirations of national resurgence and was able to present this within the novel context of European art at the turn of the 20th century. More than anything, he is famous as an original painter whose visionary works often bear musical titles, such as Prelude, Fugue, and Sonata. Later he became known as Lithuania’s first modernist composer. His sets of piano miniatures, written between 1905 and 1909, are examples of late Romanticism adorned with considerable expression. To compose them, he employed motifs of folk music and certain principles of constructivism.
“For Čiurlionis, the piano was the main tool of self-expression in music,” said Rokas Zubovas, the composer’s great-grandson and a passionate promoter of his music. “His piano works might be seen as his creative laboratory, the birthplace of his most daring musical visions that often transcend the boundaries of a single artform. For Čiurlionis, the piano was the means of a physical link to music, an area to pursue improvisation and a search for artistic solutions.”
Editing and publishing piano music by Čiurlionis is, however, by no means an easy task, as he left many of his pieces unfinished, in the form of sketches. An editor, then, has to answer tough questions: should the music be left as it appears in the manuscripts or should the editor attempt to reconstruct the composer’s ideas by speculating on and interpreting the compositional traditions of the day. In other words, the editor faces the dilemma of submitting – in the subtlest form possible – a plausible interpretation of a piece, while not becoming its new author.
The pianist Rokas Zubovas has put together and edited a quite big compilation – almost 100 pages – titled Kūrinių fortepijonui rinktinė (Selected Works for Piano), which contains all of the pieces chosen for the participants of the International Čiurlionis Piano Competition. The volume includes some of the composer’s early and late works (Fugue in B-minor, Sefaa Esec Variations, Besacas Variations, etc.). It took two years for Zubovas to prepare the publication.
“My aim was to preserve, whenever possible, the authentic notation,” Zubovas said. “Some of the pieces published here had been prepared for performance by Čiurlionis himself. In many instances, his original editorial notes might help pianists understand what kind of interpretation Čiurlionis had in mind.”
In solving this editing puzzle, the musicologist, politician, historian and author Vytautas Landsbergis has offered his vision by adding dynamic signs to Čiurlionis’ piano scores and enriching their facture. Landsbergis, whose many books explore Čiurlionis, was the editor of Mažoji sonata. Mūsų dainelės (The Little Sonata. Our Dear Songs).
The first part of the publication of Mažoji sonata (The Little Sonata) is a compilation that includes four piano works (VL 269-271a), which appear in the form of a sonata and which Landsbergis has played on numerous occasions in Lithuania and beyond. “I have a vision of The Little Sonata becoming part of the repertoire of pianists as a single piece. Moreover, it could be suitable for the International Čiurlionis Piano and Organ Competition,” Landsbergis said.
The second part of the publication, Mūsų dainelės (Our Dear Songs), offers arrangements and small variations of the twelve Lithuanian folk songs expanded, enriched and sometimes rearranged by Landsbergis. “I wanted to turn a song into a larger piece suitable for performance,” he explained. “This is why I have expanded them. These are the versions I have played myself.” One variation, Lietuviška lopšinė (Lithuanian Lullaby), has never been published before. Many years ago, Čiurlionis’ sister, Jadvyga Čiurlionytė, wrote it down from memory.
The activities and releases of the Music Information Center Lithuania are financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.
Selected Works for Piano (Kūrinių fortepijonui rinktinė) and Little Sonata. Our Dear Songs (Mažoji sonata. Mūsų dainelės) by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis are available for purchase at our online shop musiclithuania.com.
Translated from the Lithuanian by Darius Krasauskas, edited by Howard Jarvis
Information prepared by the Music Information Centre Lithuania
56TH Summer of Piano Music in Druskininkai
FESTIVAL 06 06 2021 — 28 08 M. K. ČIURLIONIS HOUSE-MUSEUM
In 1965, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the birth of M. K. Čiurlionis, the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society initiated an annual event in the city of adolescent of the most internationally appreciated Lithuanian composer and artist. Held at the memorial M. K. Čiurlionis’ house in Druskininkai, these piano recitals honor the tradition established by Čiurlionis himself: when back home on holidays, the composer himself used to perform and improvise on the piano in the evening, with family and friends all gathered outside, in the orchard, under the apple trees, listening to the music coming through the window.
Thus, it is only natural, that in forty years a tradition has developed to start and to end each piano recital with the music of M. K. Čiurlionis. Also, these concerts present primarily the prize winners of the International M. K. Čiurlionis Piano Competition.
One of the leading M. K. Čiurlionis’ scholars, Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, reflecting on Druskininkai and Čiurlionis summarized, that „it is difficult to invent a more natural cultural event than a festival of music in Druskininkai, that commemorates the name of M. K. Čiurlionis, and is lit up by the light of his Soul”.
In 2006, “Impetus Musicus” has taken over the organization of this concert series.
Festival is held in M. K. Čiurlionis House-Museum (M. K. Čiurlionio str. 35, Druskininkai).
Program of the festival:
Want to Hear a Painting? Discover Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis
An M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art volunteer and the initiator of the excursion “With the little ones around the magical world of Čiurlionis’ work” Greta Katkevičienė wrote an article “Want to Hear a Painting? Discover Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis” for the DailyArt Magazine about Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis’ musical paintings – the artworks in which you can see the sound! We invite you to read the full article here.
M. K. Čiurlionis House in Vilnius invites you to take a walk along the “Trails of Angels”
The “Trails of Angels” film by Kristina Buožytė, is a work of virtual reality animation presenting the creative legacy of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, a pathfinder of interdisciplinary art and one of the pioneers of abstract art in Europe.
To the sounds of music by Čiurlionis and Mindaugas Urbaitis, the three-dimensional space opens with the viewer’s introduction to 60 of the artist’s paintings – those rarely seen or perfectly recognisable. The storyline, connecting the artist’s oeuvre and the characters of his artworks, presents the magical world created by Čiurlionis, the characters who inhabit it, and their environment. Starting the journey as a human being, the viewer will soon realise that he or she is part of the artwork, a character who has acquired wings and is looking down on the world from above. The dissolved boundaries of the world, one‘s feet sinking into a bed of mist and fog, the lights glimmering somewhere in the distance, and the all-seeing gaze powerfully convey the subtleties of this extraordinary world: the viewer’s body dissolves as if it were part of the life of angels. This is a project that has captivated many.
What a qualitative and respectful approach the creative team has used to the legacy of M. K. Čiurlionis! The world they have created simply radiates: not only with Čiurlionis’ colours and brushstrokes, but also with a certain Čiurlionis spirit. “The Trails of Angels” have surpassed my expectations, I‘ve become a fan and I feel happy – there should be more of such angels, says Rokas Zubovas, pianist and director of the M. K. Čiurlionis House.
After the experience of travelling along the “Trails of the Angels”, the visitors are welcomed to continue their acquaintance with Čiurlionis’ oeuvre by visiting the renovated M. K. Čiurlionis Memorial Room, where he lived and worked in 1907 to 1908.
The short 360-degree virtual reality project-film “Trails of Angels” was presented in the competition programme of the 75th Venice Film Festival “Biennale College Cinema – Virtual Reality” in 2018. In 2019, the project won the Lumen Prize for Art and Technology in the UK.
Runtime: 20 minutes
Two virtual reality stations are available at Čiurlionis House.
One visitor can use one station at a time.
TICKET seller Paysera Tickets (Link)
More info www.mkcnamai.lt
Lithuanian Dream Podcast: the country’s greatest artist – Čiurlionis
LRT English is partnering up with Lithuanian Dream to bring you a weekly English-language podcast. In this installment, we speak about Mikolajus Konstantinas Čiurlionis with Kurt Van Eeghem.
“His life is his work. You cannot divide those two,” said Eeghem, a radio and TV host and author from Belgium. “You can see little mania in his paintings.
Čiurlionis (1875–1911) was a composer, writer, and a painter who produced around 400 pieces of music and created around 300 paintings. A museum with his work is located in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city.
After one faithful visit to the museum, Eeghem decided to write a book about the Lithuanian author, which is due to be released in 2022. “When I left the place, I was really in tears,” said Eeghem. “The work had hit me so hard.”
“What surprised me is the fact that this gigantic talent has not broken through in Western Europe,” said Eegham. “I think that Lithuanians don’t know anymore how unique [he] is.”
“Of course, It has to do with […] the strength of the Iron Curtain, also the domination of Russia all those years and so on, but still it’s strange,” he said, adding that Čiurlionis “must be placed between the greats” in arts.
“There were so many art movements at the end of the 19th century. And Čiurlionis knew what was happening in Europe, he was well-read, […] but he does bring along those very old, […] folk influences as well.”
“And this provides originality. And a way of expressing oneself that we […] are not used to.”
“More than half of his short life was spent on studies and all this time he has been creating, it was certainly one of the hardest working artists for all of his time.”
Čiurlionis was born in southern Lithuania, a region surrounded by lush forests and lakes.
He wanted to take care of nature and “he wanted to show [it] in his work”, said Eegham. Čiurlionis’ work allows people to feel that “the mystery of nature [is] above all [and] that’s what we should remember of his art and of his work”.
Listen to the full episode of Lithuanian Dream Podcast on Soundcloud or on Spotify.
Čiurlionis House in Vilnius presents a new ‘YouTube’ series “Čiurlionis études with pianist Rokas Zubovas”
Every Wednesday at 5 pm, from March 10 to September 22, the YouTube channel of M. K. Čiurlionis House invites the audience to open every time a new page of Čiurlionis‘ music world.
The ongoing quarantine and the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing cultural institutions to look for new opportunities, spaces and ways to communicate with lovers of culture. From February, M. K. Čiurlionis House in Vilnius started inviting people to visit its Internet accounts on Tuesdays and Thursdays and enjoy a wide range of information related to Čiurlionis’ life, work, environment and perpetuation. In kaleidoscopic messages addressed to a very wide audience, one can see both portraits of Čiurlionis‘ comrades and his childhood recollections, as well as the facts of perpetuating the memory of the artist that have been discovered all over the world.
On March 10, the Čiurlionis House “YouTube” channel is to start a six-month journey to the world of Čiurlionis‘ music by invitation from Rokas Zubovas, pianist and manager of Čiurlionis House in Vilnius. Every Wednesday at 5 pm, Čiurlionis‘ music lovers will be invited to listen to a new series of musical meetings under the title “Čiurlionis études with pianist Rokas Zubovas”. In these short shows created for the Čiurlionis House YouTube channel, the pianist will share his insights about Čiurlionis‘ creative work, the circumstances of the artist‘s life and era, and will play his grandfather‘s piano pieces. The series will consist of thirty musical encounters covering the entire oeuvre and life of the genius. The last, thirtieth meeting is planned for Čiurlionis‘ birthday on September 22.
In the form of these concert meetings, Čiurlionis House in Vilnius seeks to fill in the lack of cultural events caused by the quarantine restrictions, as well as to give music lovers the opportunity to satisfy their need for live cultural communication at least to some extent.
Pianist Rokas Zubovas has revealed that he came across the idea of these series while looking for ways to avoid interrupting his concert and educational activities:
“During the quarantine, personally I find it very hard to face up the ever-changing conditions of organizing musical and cultural events, along with the ever-lingering uncertainty on when and under which circumstances we will be able to meet with lovers of music and culture. At the beginning, I was rather skeptical about the possibility of holding classical music concerts in the Internet or meeting music lovers online and playing live for them: the technical possibilities did not seem to ensure the quality and, at the same time, the essence of such communication. However, the months spent under quarantine conditions required a rethink of the circumstances and a search for means. I realized that the world of music will never be the same as it was just a year ago, and that we will become increasingly accustomed to discovering substitutes for live communication online. This is how the format of these musical meetings came about, I think, adapted to a very wide range of Internet users.”
M. K. Čiurlionis House invites the lovers of Čiurlionis‘ music to watch the shows of the series “Čiurlionis études with pianist Rokas Zubovas” on the YouTube channel.
“Info” of M. K. Čiurlionis House in Vilnius
M. K. Čiurlionis scholarships award ceremony 2021
Ceremony of awarding the 2nd M. K. Čiurlionis Scholarship to the students of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater (LMTA) and Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts (VDA).
The 2021 scholarships has been awarded to Lukas Butkus, a second-year bachelor student of Composition at LMTA, who has proposed Auto-da-fé, a syncretic concerto for piano and Denisas Kolomyckis, an actor, creator of interdisciplinary art, a fourth-year bachelor student of Sculpture at Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts for the idea of creating of the theatrical performance Lucid Dream.
The online award ceremony took place on the LMTA TV platform on 15 February at 12 p.m., just before the celebration of the Restoration of the State Day of Lithuania.
The virtual ceremony was attended by: Lukas Butkus, a scholarship holder of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, laureate of the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts Denisas Kolomyckis, LMTA Rector prof. Zbignevas Ibelgauptas, Vice Rector of Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts Dr. Marius Iršėnas, representatives of M. K. Čiurlionis Society Saulius Valius (Chair), Vincas Matonis and Rokas Zubovas.
During the ceremony, the rectors of the Academies, representatives of the M. K. Čiurlionis Society gave congratulatory words, and the winners of the scholarships will present the artistic projects proposed for the competition.
The regulations of the competition provide for two scholarships to be annually awarded: one for the LMTA students and the other for students of the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts. Each scholarship is worth 5,000 Eur. This incentive, established by M. K. Čiurlionis’ Society, has already been awarded for the second year running.
This year jury consisted of:
LMTA: M. K. Čiurlionis’ Society representative Rokas Zubovas; Head of the LMTA Department of Composition Prof. Vaclovas Augustinas; Dr. Jonas Jurkūnas, lecturer at the LMTA Department of Composition; Chairman of the Lithuanian Composers’ Union, lecturer at the LMTA Department of Composition Dr. Mykolas Natalevičius; and Ana Ablamonova, Head of the LMTA Art Centre.
VDA: M. K. Čiurlionis’ Society representative Vincas Matonis; VDA Vice Rector for Arts and Science dr. Marius Iršėnas; VDA chief researcher dr. Algė Andriulytė; VDA lecturer Remigijus Gataveckas; director of the VDA museum dr. Vidas Poškus.
LMTA Rector, Prof. Zbignevas Ibelgauptas reveals: “M. K. Čiurlionis scholarship for young composers plays an extremely significant role for the creative youth at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, both as a real incentive and on a symbolic level too. Not only does it encourage aspiring musicians to develop their ambitious ideas, but it also makes Čiurlionis’ idealistic endeavours relevant for today’s context linking the composer’s creative aspirations with those of the young idealists of our time. It feels as if the visionary spirit of Čiurlionis is reborn in the work of the young.”
Rokas Zubovas, a representative of M. K. Čiurlionis’ Society, feels happy to have received more applications this year than previously: “This year, all the ideas submitted for the Čiurlionis Scholarship were intriguing, and the applications were thoroughly prepared. Since the very establishment of the Čiurlionis scholarship, the Society has expected this competition to encourage talented young composers to take on courageous ideas. Our aspirations seem to have resonated in the hearts of the young and we feel thrilled about it.”
Auto-da-fé, a syncretic concert for piano, instrumental ensemble and four singers composed by Lukas Butkus is unique because it deploys a literary layer to be conveyed by the singers, while the text builds on Butkus’ own cycle of poems Auto-da-fé. Lukas, the author of the composition, has shared that “the word-for-word translation of the title means “the act of faith”. It tells a story of a form of idealistic love that goes beyond the boundaries of time, death and fear; about man’s eternal temporality.
The director and actor of the play Lucid Dream will explore the relationship between psychological, emotional and physical aspects, using personal stories of unusual or difficult-to-express experiences. “The work reflects the ways in which we seek intimacy, in which we feel the desire to make contact and transcend the boundaries of our own skin, look at and talk about images, understand the formation of “traumatic experiences” stereotypes, convey the difficulties of being together in spite of everything.” – says Denisas Kolomyckis.
Newly published catalog of graphic works by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis
M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art presents the newly published catalog “Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis: drawings, sketches, graphic arts“. This book consists of 440 pages, in which you will find book covers, posters, initials, drawings, postcards, etchings, and sketches created by the great artist and composer. While flipping through the catalog, you will be able to admire and explore 747 illustrations, which will allow you to get to know the diverse talent of M. K. Čiurlionis better.
The newly published catalog “Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis: drawings, sketches, graphic arts” is available in M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art e-shop. Here you will also find reproductions of M. K. Čiurlionis’ graphic works.
Look for the catalog Here
2021 01 29