Bronius Kutavičius

A prolific composer and long-standing figure in Lithuanian music, Bronius Kutavičius is considered the harbinger of minimalism in Lithuanian music. The way the composer uses multiple layers of repetition and reduces the musical material to rather elementary archetypal patterns, which resemble American or early European minimalism, actually sounds quite different. Kutavičius's special kind of minimalism is his own invention, and is rooted deeply in archaic forms of Lithuanian folk music. On the other hand, he is able to develop such an intense drama out of minimalistic repetitions that the audience is sometimes left 'bowled over with sounds'. Kutavičius admits that he started following his own creative vision and writing some of his valuable compositions quite late, towards the end of his thirties. Among them was Pantheistic Oratorio (1970), now often considered the take-off point of genuinely modern Lithuanian music. The oratorio Last Pagan Rites (1978) is valued as one of the most important and influential Lithuanian contemporary music works. 


Bronius Kutavičius (b. 1932) entered the Lithuanian State Conservatory (known today as the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre) in 1959, where, until 1964, he studied composition with Prof. Antanas Račiūnas. In 1987 he was honoured with the Lithuanian State Prize and in 1995 with the Lithuanian National Arts and Culture Prize. In 1996 Bronius Kutavičius received the prize of the ‘Probaltica’ Festival in Toruń, Poland, for his lifetime artistic achievements. In 1999 he was honoured with the 4th Class Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas and the Officers Cross Order for his merits to the Republic of Poland. In 2003 he was awarded the order ‘For Merits to Lithuania’. He is a winner of prizes of the composer’s competitions organized by the Lithuanian Composer’s Union: best stage work (stage diptych Ignis et fides, 2003), best chamber work (cello octet Andata e ritorno, 2008), best stage work again (music for silent film by Carl Theodor Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc, 2010). His compositions The 10th of April, Saturday... for soprano and symphony orchestra, and Winter Cares for choir and orchestra were among the laureates of the same competition in 2011 and 2012. The composer was also awarded the prize of the World Intellectual Property Organization (2003) and the ‘Author of the Year’ prize established by the Agency of Lithuanian Copyright Protection Association (2004).

His music is regularly performed at various festivals in Lithuania and abroad: Warsaw Autumn (1978, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (1990, Great Britain), Festival International des Musiques d'Aujourdhui de Strasbourg 'Musica' (1992), Mare Balticum (1992, Finland), De Suite Muziekweek (1995, The Netherlands), Wratislavia Cantans (1995, Poland), Vale of Glamorgan Festival (1996, Great Britain), Baltic Arts'96 (Great Britain), Probaltica'96 (Poland), Spitalfields Festival (2002, Great Britain), MaerzMusik (2003, Germany), Icebreaker II: Baltic Voices (2004, USA), ISCM World Music Days in Vilnius (2008). In 1998 Bronius Kutavičius was a guest composer at the Music Harvest Festival in Odense, Denmark.

Bronius Kutavičius's work is considered within three books: Bronius Kutavičius. A Music of Signs and Changes by Raminta Lampsatis (Vilnius, 1998; in English), Pagan Avant-Garde. Theoretical aspects of music by Bronius Kutavičius by Inga Jasinskaitė-Jankauskienė (Vilnius, 2001; in Lithuanian), and Music of Bronius Kutavičius, Passing Time also by Jasinskaitė-Jankauskienė (Vilnius, 2008; in Lithuanian). To date, Bronius Kutavičius's discography includes 7 portrait CDs.

The name of the composer is first of all associated with the revealing impact on the local intellectual society by his works such as Pantheistic Oratorio (1970), Last Pagan Rites (1978) and From the Jatvingian Stone (1983). These monumental works best represent the concept and style of the composer:

  • The world of Kutavičius's oratorios is governed by unique temporal-spatial relationships and characterised by a prominent visual aspect.
  • The theatrical effect of his work and resemblance to a ritual lends Kutavičius’s work to exceptional magic.
  • The constantly pulsating rhythm magnetises the audience who soon find themselves involved in the musical ritual.
  • Kutavičius's music is stripped of any academic restrictions, quite often rough or intentionally ‘pure’ and ‘bare’ textures are utilized.
  • A highly concentrated idea by the composer is brought forth by spare vehicles.
  • Still his biggest asset is his insight into the core of Lithuanian folk music, lying much deeper than any tangible sound structures.

The work by Bronius Kutavičius transcends the sphere of pure music to enter a much wider cultural domain. It uncovers centuries old layers of history and reaches back to prehistoric times to speak in archetypes of mythical and religious consciousness. At the same time, Kutavičius's music is contemporary enough that it speaks to the modern audience in an unique language. Kutavičius is fluent in modern techniques such as serialism, sonorism, aleatoricism, collage, minimalism (the last corresponds to the basic principles of ancient folk music), spatial organization of music, and consequently, innovative notation. The archaic and primeval character of the music by Bronius Kutavičius, a composer on a mission of ‘cultural archaeology’; is also no less rationalistic and mathematically exact. His precise and sometimes sophisticated sound systems are always full of life and strong emotions.