EVENTS. Lithuanian and German Musicians Within Intercultural Dialogue

International Musicological Conference “Lithuanian Music. The Idea and History of a National Music Movement Within the European Context”

18–20 May 2008, Leipzig

After the European Commission has declared 2008 the Year of Intercultural Dialogue, various European regions have launched numerous projects aimed to consummate long-term intercultural relations and to introduce new prospects for cultural cooperation. In 2008, Germany will pay special attention to joint projects with the Baltic States, thus highlighting its historical contribution to the political events that led to the declarations of their independence in 1918, as well as its cultural ties to the region.

On March 15 three Baltic leaders met in Berlin to inaugurate the Essentia Baltica 2008 program of the German-Baltic Culture Year at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall where the orchestra of the region’s select string players, Kremerata Baltica, under its artistic director Gidon Kremer, performed works by Pēteris Vasks, Bronius Kutavičius and Arvo Pärt. The programme will continue to run throughout the year and include exhibits, performances, screenings, readings and other events in several German cities. The list of events scheduled for May, besides the Lithuanian film week in Mainz and the appearance of the Čiurlionis Quartet in Dresden, also features a musicological conference dedicated to Lithuanian music and accompanied by a broad programme of classical and contemporary Lithuanian music concerts, which will take place in Leipzig on May 18-20, 2008.

According to Prof. Helmut Loos, the initiator of the conference, “the idea that united Europe could base its culture on some common cultural foundation is very popular in Germany; however, little is known here about the cultures of the Eastern European countries. Starting from the early 19th century, the national cultures of Europe began to separate from each other and form their distinct canons of national values. This has led to some kind of a vicious circle, when people would reject what they do not know and would not know what they had rejected. Yet, when there is the political will to encourage ideas uniting Europe, science may also contribute substantially through the analysis of the current situation and research of historical materials. This is the primary concern of the International Work Group for Music History in Central and Eastern Europe at the Leipzig University. The planned conference is part of its current activities.”

The city of Leipzig itself well illustrates close German-Lithuanian relations, which date back to the beginning of the 20th century when many famous Lithuanian musicians came here to study. Out of 268 students from the Russian empire, who studied at the Leipzig University over the fifty years after its founding (in 1843), around 60 came from the Baltic States. If we extended this period up to the end of World War I, this number would increase more than twice (totalling to 128). The two founding fathers of the Lithuanian national music – Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis and Juozas Gruodis – were educated at the Leipzig Conservatory (graduating in 1902 and 1924, respectively). In the early 1920s, a few more Lithuanian musicians came to study here, including composer and pianist Balys Dvarionas; his brother and singer Antanas Dvarionas; Čiurlionis’ younger sister Jadvyga Čiurlionytė, who became a pioneer of Lithuanian ethnomusicology; and modernist composer Kazimieras Viktoras Banaitis. These facts evidence intense cultural exchange, which has not been thoroughly researched yet.

The conference will open with the Sunday matinee concert at the Mendelssohn House in Leipzig given by Lithuanian pianist Rokas Zubovas, just to be followed by a meeting-workshop with composers Vytautas Barkauskas and Raminta Šerkšnytė. The musical programme of the conference will also include a theme concert presented by flutist Johannes Hustedt and organist Jūratė Landsbergytė and devoted to the works by Lithuanian composers who had studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. And the final performance will be given by the MDR Sinfonieorchester under Hendrik Vestmann at the MDR-Studio am Augustusplatz, Leipzig, featuring symphonic works by Arvydas Malcys, Raminta Šerkšnytė, Vidmantas Bartulis and Osvaldas Balakauskas.

The scholarly programme of the conference (held at the Mendelssohn House) will consist of the three report blocks devoted to musical life in Lithuania, works by Lithuanian composers and intercultural-musical relations, and encompass the history of Lithuanian music from its beginnings in the 16th century (Jūratė Trilupaitienė) up to the present situation at the beginning of the 21st century. The report by Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis on the works of M. K. Čiurlionis will serve as a point of departure and as a festive element for the part of the conference devoted to works by Lithuanian composers. His report will be followed by the piano recital, which will take place at the Mendelssohn House. The following themes will be covered in the papers by Lithuanian, Latvian, Swedish, German, Polish and Ukrainian scholars: Lithuanian music of the pre-war period, during WWII and in exile (Jūratė Burokaitė, Vytautė Markeliūnienė, Jūratė Vyliūtė); traditional folk instruments, Baltic mythology and the Baltic song festivals (Valdis Muktupavels, Folke Bohlin); the development of Lithuanian national opera and ballet (Jonas Bruveris, Audronė Žiūraitytė); symphonic poems by M. K. Čiurlionis within the context of German and Polish music (Stefan Keym); the Lithuanian school of composition and specific works by Lithuanian composers of different periods (Gražina Daunoravičienė, Jūratė Landsbergytė, Danutė Palionytė, Živilė Ramoškaitė, Rūta Gaidamavičiūtė); and, last but not least, the intercultural musical relations (Lucian Schiwietz, Helmut Loos and Danutė Petrauskaitė). All conference proceedings will be later published in German.

This exceptional programme, aimed at presenting and promoting Lithuanian music abroad, is coordinated by Prof. Helmut Loos (Institute for Musicology, Leipzig University) and Dr. Audronė Žiūraitytė (Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre) and developed through close cooperation between numerous German and Lithuanian institutions, including Leipzig University, University of Music and Theatre Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, MDR Symphony Orchestra, Mendelssohn Foundation and Museum in Leipzig, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Lithuanian Composers’ Union, German Embassy in Vilnius, Lithuanian Embassy in Germany, and many others. This project is one of the initiatives aimed at the encouragement of international cooperation that would facilitate the spread of works by Lithuanian composers, as the latter are very scarce in the concert programmes presented by Lithuanian performers abroad. The musicological implications of this project are of great significance as well, because it provides an opportunity for Lithuanian musicologists and their European colleagues to present a summarised panorama of Lithuanian music and its history within the context of European culture.

© Audronė Žiūraitytė & Rūta Stanevičiūtė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 16