Vykintas Baltakas' Dualisms

First of all, a few words about the double surname causing some problems. Last year, the manager of Ensemble Modern André Hebbelinck, visiting the Gaida Festival, mentioned two composers - Vykintas Bieliauskas and Baltakas. The same man, who uses both names, is the 29-year-old composer and conductor Vykintas Bieliauskas, who wanted to separate the person, who conducts (Bieliauskas), from the one, who creates music (Baltakas).

After a considerable amount of time was spent on analysing the moments of his extremely rich creative biography, one can claim that both areas are hardly separable. Perhaps this is why he shuns questions concerning what he likes to do more - write music or conduct. Bieliauskas is well-known as a student and assistant of the composer and conductor Peter Eötvös. He has worked with such ensembles as the WDR Symphony Orchestra (Cologne), Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris), and Ensemble Varianti (Stuttgart). Moreover, he has carried out his own independent projects. In 1997, Bieliauskas was in charge of the production of Am Himmel wandre ich... by Karlheinz Stockhausen during the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg festival. Next year he cooperated with the Ensemble Modern and Vokalensemble Belcanto Frankfurt in realisation of the project Voix[time] during the Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. In the aftermath he was invited to conduct the Asko Ensemble, Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra, Chor Niewe Muziek, and L'Ensemble du nouveau Siècle.

One could guess that in the recent biography of this musician Vykintas Baltakas-composer starts to dominate. From 1999 he spent a year studying composition and computer music at the annual courses of IRCAM (Paris). The outcome of these studies was das Lied for piano and tape, premiered in September 2000 at IRCAM by the pianist Jean-Marie Cottet (from the Ensemble Court-circuit). Soon this piece started its independent life: in April 2001 the German pianist Jan-Philip Schulzeit performed it during the seminar Konzert-Klangkunst-Computer at the Institut für Neue Musik und Musikerziehung in Darmstadt. Earlier this composition was included in Vykintas Baltakas' portrait concert in the Carl Orff Hall as part of the Klangspuren concert series in Gasteig Munich. It has also featured his new work anderes Lied. double for soprano and chamber ensemble, commissioned for the Munich Biennale.

According to the composer, those two works are rudiments of a certain Liederzyklus, where he intends to play metaphorically with the idea of the Lied genre: '...music swarms with a myriad of "tiny beings" that dictate dramatic processes, "talk" and express their "wishes". Most of them appear independently - not as the result of the composer's will; they unite and create unity. I strive to elucidate those processes - to expose them to daylight and to observe how they appear, develop and interact. This is a poetic moment: the expression of certain aspects of music suddenly becomes visible and palpable; it "appears on stage" and speaks for itself. I call it a Song (Lied).'

It is difficult to judge to what extent the development of these works is an intuitive process, for Vykintas Baltakas' compositions seem to be precisely structured and invested with seriousness. At the same time, there is something sensitive, subtly intuitive and sometimes drastically theatrical in this sea of atonal harmony, unstable palpitating rhythmic formulas, multifaceted articulation, detailed phrasing and suddenly changing layers of texture. (It is worth mentioning here that the composer spent four years studying composition with Wolfgang Rihm at the Hochschule für Musik, Karlsruhe.)

'Baltakas recomposes his works several times as a series of new variations, of images in the new light and of the new expansions', the reviewer of the Süddeutsche Zeitung remarked after the concert in Munich. In commentaries of his works he often writes a phrase that the work is still 'in progress'. Moreover, the composer often indicates the particularities of performance and the place of the composition in a programme of a concert.

The composer once said that his experience as a performer gives him plenty of impulses and ideas on how to interpret anew the essence of musical composition. This is one more proof of the synergy that permeates artistic activities of Vykintas Bieliauskas-Baltakas.

One more paradox related to his personality: we only know his work in Lithuania from records; we have not seen Vykintas Bieliauskas conducting in Lithuania for a long time, and the only way to learn about his creative biography is foreign press, not to mention short personal meetings in Vilnius. Thus, our projections for those who know this composer and performer well might be not completely precise.

The composer maintains that he likes living between cities and states, not depending on any institutions and doing whatever he wants as well as evading routine. In March last year the composer worked with the Belgian Ensemble Ictus. The ensemble gave a concert in Brussels, where it performed the opus Pusline for ten instruments. The Dutch trio European Wind commissioned Vykintas Bieliauskas a new work Unvollendete, performed in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum and later also in other Dutch cities, Hamburg and Paris. In August 2000, the singer Lucy Shelton (USA) and trumpet player Steven Tistaert performed Baltakas' composition RiRo at the Tanglewood festival. In January 2001, L'Ensemble 2e2m, conducted by Paul Méfano, programmed one of the most often performed pieces by Vykintas Baltakas Pasaka (1995) for the reciting pianist (the work was initially written for the German pianist Benjamin Kobler) in Auditorium St-Germain, Paris.

Next performance of this piece is planned on October 18 and 20 at the Lincoln Centre, NYC.

Vykintas Baltakas has been contracted for several years to a small publishing house Aust Musik in Cologne. Recently, he signed a contract with Universal Edition. The composer's busy agenda is planned until the year 2004. Among future events - the premiere of a new opus for symphony orchestra (13 September 2002, Cologne, WDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sylvain Cambreling), a premiere of another symphonic work (2003, musica viva, Munich, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra), and opera for the Munich Biennale 2004. A more detailed account on creative career of the composer Vykintas Baltakas (and conductor Vykintas Bieliauskas) at his homepage - members.aol.com/baltakas

© Linas Paulauskis & Daiva Parulskienė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 3