National commemoration of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis

This year Lithuania celebrates the 125th anniversary of the birth of famous Lithuanian composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), with a variety of cultural events and functions being organized in Lithuania, several countries in Europe, and in the USA, under the aegis of the State Cultural Programme for the Year of Čiurlionis.

M. K. Čiurlionis is deemed the founder of Lithuanian national music, and his paintings the most significant Lithuanian contribution to European culture thus far. Considered among the vanguard of European symbolism, Čiurlionis was an artist of luminous imagination in both painting and music. His musical compositions developed in style from late romanticism in his early works (two symphonic poems, String Quartet in C minor, folk song arrangements, piano pieces, etc) to highly individualistic, though inconsistent exploration in his later pieces. From ca. 1905 he presented new ways of building cyclic compositions (piano variations, preludes on one theme), and experiments with extended chromatic tonality, artificial modes, polymodality and polytonality.

In commemorating the 125th anniversary of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, the Lithuanian-American Fine Arts Association in Chicago, in conjunction with the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, Lithuanian Composers' Union, and Vilnius String Quartet, organized a competition for composers in memoriam M. K. Čiurlionis. This competition sought to formulate a novel approach to Čiurlionis' works, one which would serve as an incentive to re-evaluate them not only in terms of a Lithuanian cultural legacy, but also as a vivid force promoting new creative energies.

Winners were announced on July 24. First prize was awarded to Remigijus Merkelys for MiKonst for piano and string quartet. Second prize went to Mindaugas Urbaitis for Stillness for piano and string quartet. Third prize to Vytautas Barkauskas for Journey of the Princess. Fairy Tale for piano 4 hands and string quartet. These works were premiered in Čiurlionis' hometown of Druskininkai on August 5, and subsequently toured Lithuania with the Vilnius String Quartet and pianists Rokas Zubovas and Sonata Deveikytė-Zubovienė.

All three works were featured at the Contemporary Music Festival 'Gaida' in Vilnius on October 17 and released on CD (together with String Quartet in C minor and piano preludes by Čiurlionis). Later this year the same performers will present these works at the Lithuanian Centre in Lemont (Nov. 3), University of Chicago (Nov. 5), Boston University (Nov. 7), and other American venues to be announced.

The American tour is part of the Čiurlionis Festival to be held in Chicago (Oct. 28 - Nov. 5) by the Lithuanian-American Fine Arts Association, and of the commemoration programme of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. Čiurlionis' paintings will be exhibited in St. Petersburg, Leipzig, Warsaw, and Paris (Musée d'Orsay), and his music will be performed in the latter 3 cities. The Čiurlionis String Quartet and pianist Petras Geniušas will play his String Quartet in C minor and piano works for the exhibition opening at the Musée d'Orsay on Nov. 8; the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, will perform the symphonic poem In the Forest at the Theatre des Champs d'Elysées on Jan. 8 (2001).

© Linas Paulauskis

Lithuanian Music Link No. 1


M. K. Čiurlionis 125

M. K. Čiurlionis Prelude in F-Sharp majorString Quartet in C minor, Prelude in A major / Vytautas Barkauskas Journey of the Princess. Fairy Tale / Mindaugas Urbaitis Stillness / Remigijus Merkelys MiKonst
Sonata Deveikytė-Zubovienė, Rokas Zubovas/pianos, Vilnius String Quartet
Bomba Records BBCD138, 2000

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis
CD1: In the ForestThe Sea
Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, Gintaras Rinkevičius/cond.
CD2: Seven fugues for organ / String Quartet in C minor
Jūratė Landsbergytė/organ, Čiurlionis Quartet
CD3: Piano works
Aleksandra Juozapėnaitė-Eesmaa/piano
CD4*: Folk songs for choir
Jauna Muzika Choir, Vaclovas Augustinas/cond.
* The recording of Čiurlionis' folk songs will be additionally distributed on a separate CD.
Vilnius Recording Studio/Semplice VSSECD003-6, 2000

M. K. Čiurlionis: String Quartet, Piano Works
String Quartet in C minor / Two Canons / Two Fugues / Piano works
Čiurlionis Quartet, Petras Geniušas/piano
Vilnius Recording Studio VSCD-073, 2000


In the Forest, symphonic poem (score and parts). Edition J. Petronis, Kaunas, 2000. First publication of the original version, based on manuscripts by the composer.

The Sea, symphonic poem (score and parts). Edition J. Petronis, Kaunas, 2000. First publication of the original version, based on manuscripts by the composer.