Her young days were marked with Stalin’s repressions: together with her family she spent six years in exile in Siberia, which delayed her professional career, but has formed an especially strong character and determination to achieve her aims. After graduating from the then Lithuanian State Conservatory in 1960, Ona Narbutienė has accomplished a lot in researching and promoting the Lithuanian musical culture.
Her fifteen books carefully examine the work of outstanding composers of the past, including the patriarch of Lithuanian music Juozas Naujalis, the pre-war modernist Vytautas Bacevičius, the singers Antanas Kučingis and Stasys Baras. The diligent scientific research and general insight into facts carefully collected in these books are presented in an attractive form, accessible for a common music lover. Ona Narbutienė always remained focused on the issues of the present-day musical life. It is witnessed by numerous articles contributed to the periodicals and reports presented at international conferences in Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Sweden, Finland and Poland.
Outstanding social and communication skills made her indispensable in preparing anniversary events and book presentations, radio and television productions and concerts. It would suffice to note her contribution to the impressive Vilnius String Quartet concert series that encompassed new and early works by composers from all of the EU member states.
Ona Narbutienė was an active public figure, the initiator and participant of many significant cultural projects. From 1971 on, she was continually elected into the Board and Council of the Lithuanian Composers’ Union, and in 1975-1979 she presided over its Musicology section. From 1992 to 2000, Ona Narbutienė was a member of the Buckower Begegnungen Curatorium (Germany), participating in the activities of various important public organisations, committees and councils. For ten years she had designed and directed the musical programs of the Thomas Mann Festival in Nida (Curonian Spit) and even contributed to the festival’s eleventh edition, held in July this year.
Having an extraordinary talent and vocation of a teacher, Ona Narbutienė devoted the major part of her life to various music education institutions. An Associate Professor at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy, Ona Narbutienė was a dedicated, responsible and loving educator to a whole generation of young musicians, and has raised many prolific musicologists.
In 1999, she was awarded the National Arts and Culture Prize for her works. In her last days she was pleased to receive the Lithuanian President’s Award on the occasion of the Statehood Day (6th July)–the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas.
Ona Narbutienė impressed everyone with her strong will, inexhaustible energy and deep sense of duty. No matter how occupied, she always managed to dedicate time and attention to her family. Her daughter, Onutė Narbutaitė, is an internationally acclaimed composer.
Strenuous work, multiple activities and domestic concerns never overshadowed her inherent optimism and joy of life. She seemed to radiate warmth, benevolence and spirituality. And this image of her, complete with her usual benign smile, will remain in our memory.
© Algirdas Jonas Ambrazas
Lithuanian Music Link No. 15