I have been visiting Lithuania for the best part of eight years (part business and part pleasure) and have made over 30 visits to its wonderful capital city of Vilnius, but have also managed to take in visits to Kaunas and Siauliai, albeit in the latter case an encounter with a 40 ton truck curtailed our visit and required a lengthy visit to the local A&E.
As an avid music fan I have tried to take in as much culture as possible by attending concerts by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra or LNSO (Lietuvos Nacionalinis Simfoninis Orkestras, LNSO) and operas at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (LNOBT) which, is often considered to be the “jewel in the crown” as far as Lithuanian culture goes.
I have seen excellent orchestral concerts and heard the music of Mahler, Richard Strauss, Lutoslawski and Elgar and saw the most magnificent performance of Madam Butterfly at the opera house. Visually, it was stunning and the musical performance was excellent.
What I have not managed to do on any visits is hear the music of native Lithuanian composers, possibly just bad timing of my visits.
I have managed to acquire the odd CD from my visits and I can recommend the Requiem by Osvaldas Balakauskas which I have in my collection (available on Naxos records).
I can also recommend a CD of piano music played by Sviese Cepliauskaite featuring music by Chopin and a variety of Lithuanian composers. However, the real discovery for me has been the compositions of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis which I discovered through the wonders of YouTube by accident.
He has been considered one of the pioneers of abstract in Europe . During his short life he composed about 400 pieces of music and created about 300 paintings, as well as many literary works and poems. The majority of his paintings are housed in the M.K Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania. His works have had a profound influence on modern Lithuanian culture. The asteroid 2420 Ciurlionis is named after him.
Possibly his best two compositions (and best known) are the tone poems “In the Forest” and “The Sea” both very atmospheric, beautiful melodies that should be much wider known and played.
So instead of churning out the same old warhorses every season, how about a bit of risk taking and programming one of these works (are you listening at the Halle?) and let the public enjoy this wonderful music.
And to make things even better how about inviting Juozas Domarkas, Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the LNSO (pictured above) to conduct the concert. Now that I would pay good money to see!