Feliksas Bajoras' Symphony no. 5 will be premiered at the Vilnius Festival to celebrate his 70th birthday



photo: Mikhail Rashkovsky

"With no strings attached, it's more important to be oneself, than to be understood," claims composer Feliksas Bajoras celebrating his 70th birthday this year. Even at this venerable age, he remains unpredictable and surprises listeners with his original takes on traditional genres and forms, and unique blend of folk music and contemporary expression. Suite of Stories for voice and piano, Vilnius Quartet-Diptych, Sonata for violin and piano Years Gone By, oratorio The Bell Raising, the opera Lamb of God, Missa in musica for ensemble, and Exodus I and II for symphony orchestra – in these and many other distinctive works, the composer reached the pinnacle of his consistent style.

Bajoras' work represents the attitude that each sound, or intonation, is absolutely irreplaceable and has a strong expressive charge, with its own rhythmic energy that springs not only from the diverse elements of the composition, but from other works as well - and ultimately from the tradition itself. Perhaps that is why, simply thinking of one or another of his works, one immediately recalls some signature phrase or specific timbre, or a combination which characteristically sets the tone for the whole piece. Bajoras perceives sound not as an aesthetic category, but rather as a natural given, intuitively sensing its living connection to language.

From the very start of his creative career in the mid-1960s, Feliksas Bajoras differed from his contemporaries, and even more so from his younger colleagues, in his thorough knowledge of folk music, and his particular ability to combine a folk-like manner of performing with modern composing techniques. Bajoras' mother - a famous singer from northern Lithuania - imparted him the authentic beauty of folk songs. This experience, later enhanced by professional training as a violinist and composer, helps the author to this day to sublimate tradition, and very naturally, to transfer it from the village hut to the environment of urban concert life. Transfer it not only as an ingredient, but also as a distinctive musical dialect, with specific pronunciation, intonations, tempo, rhythm of speech, even the placement of words in a sentence.

It is therefore not surprising that the composer writes a great deal for voice, and to this day is one of the leaders in this domain of Lithuanian music. His latest vocal opus, Symphony no. 5 for soprano and full symphony orchestra, will receive its premiere on June 11 at the Vilnius Festival 2004, performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra under Robertas Šervenikas. The Symphony is set to the text by Kahlil Gibran, a favourite of Bajoras (his last work with text by Gibran was the vocal piece Like the Mist Have I Been, which scrutinised the theme of death). This time, the author has chosen musings about love, framing them in several phrases from the Revelation to St. John. Like many of the composer's scores, this four-movement symphony is highly polyphonic where not only voice, but instrumental parts as well, act like separate individuals. Their polylogue is entwined with thematic ties between the parts, and with certain leitmotifs, based on an individually modified serial technique.

As befits a typical figure of an uncomprising outsider, Bajoras gives utmost tasks both to himself and to the performers of his music. Thus it takes time to grasp and understand many of his works. "In my music, one phrase seems to end, but before it does, another sprouts up," says Bajoras. "Only a performer unfettered by routine, can catch this moment." Having been a violinist himself, Bajoras knows the nature of the strings, and therefore a fair amount of his work is written for these instruments. His Concerto for violin and orchestra (1998-9) is one of the most elaborated examples of this genre in Lithuanian music, and is dedicated to the recently deceased celebrated Lithuanian violinist, Raimundas Katilius. Flowing into one another, the four movements of the Concerto unveil a myriad of hues - from short patterns to lyric expansions. The Concerto will be performed in October 2004, on the occasion of the composer's anniversary, by the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra and French violinist Philippe Graffin.

© Rūta Gaidamavičiūtė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 8

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