Integrity of Man and Music. In memoriam Julius Juzeliūnas

The discussion on whether it is possible to escape the influence of traditional harmony and to find a system more in tune with the local ethnic musical heritage has continued in Lithuania from the very beginning of the last century. Is it possible to create music which is both contemporary and national? Which direction should the idea of national music take? These are the main questions that lie at the very foundation of Lithuanian school of composition. However, they became coherent and harmonious, constantly developing system in only Julius Juzeliūnas' theoretical works and music.

Julius Juzeliūnas was a composer, who created and consistently developed his musical language. Like Bartók, Hindemith or Messiaen, whose music he regarded as examples for his own work, Juzeliūnas perfected his personal system of composition. In this respect, he was often imitated, and at the same time left rather lonely in his universe.

Intense intellectual work and a change in political situation influenced his move from national romanticism to modernism in early 1960s. Like a true structuralist Juzeliūnas plunged into studies of Lithuanian ethnic music looking for typical melodic patterns, basic tones, their regular repetitions and relationships. On this basis he created his personal system of harmony, modal in character, which was set out in his work 'On the Structure of the Chord', the basis of his doctorate habilitation in humanities.

The system of harmony developed in parallel with his creative activities, where the idea of national modernism acquired various aspects in different time periods. Certain stages of the composer's work are represented in the recording of his three major compositions for orchestra, released recently by the Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre.

Concerto for organ, violin and chamber orchestra (1963) is an opus with explicit neo-classicist tendencies and emphasis on linear thinking. This is one of the most dramatic works in composer's output.

The second opus Songs of Plains (Symphony No.5, 1982) for girls' choir and chamber orchestra exemplifies the late style of Juzeliūnas, where variant method of elaboration of thematic material becomes dominant and composer starts building more static soundscapes. The composition has no specific programme; the onomatopoeic words selected from sutartinės (ancient Lithuanian multi-part singing) replaces the poetic text. Close ties with the Lithuanian folk tradition are felt in the musical idiom of the work.

Juzeliūnas' African Sketches for symphony orchestra (1961) is considered a chrestomatic work abounding in instrumental colours and gestures. The work comprises five movements of different character, full of tender exoticisms. It is perhaps the most programmatic instrumental piece of the composer intended to be a ballet at the outset.

The release reflects only a small part of Juzeliūnas' oeuvre, which includes two operas, ballet, six symphonies, symphony-oratorio Cantus Magnificat, five concerto type works, cantata for voice and strings Flowers' Talk, four string quartets, seven sonatas for various instruments, and many other works. Although a great deal of his music has been performed in the former Soviet Union as well as in Eastern European countries, there is plenty of excellent music to discover for the international performer and listener.

Julius Juzeliūnas' influence on Lithuanian music is undisputed. During his teaching career spanning 50 years at the Lithuanian Academy of Music, he tutored several generations of composers. This year the 'Juzeliūnas School' pays homage to their teacher in the final concert of the Gaida Festival.

© Daiva Parulskienė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 3

Julius Juzeliūnas
Concerto for organ, violin and chamber orchestra (1963) / Songs of Plains (1982) / African Sketches (1961)
Leopoldas Digrys (organ), Raimundas Katilius (violin), Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, cond. Saulius Sondeckis, Liepaitės Girls' Choir, cond. Petras Vailionis, Moscow Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra, cond. Algis Žiūraitis
Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre LMIPCCD 010, 2000