Vidmantas Bartulis' Universal Prayers

Vidmantas Bartulis' work stands out from the torrent of disposable innovations flooding today's music world. His compositions often quietly affirm the strength of spiritual origins - something which is immediately noticeable amongst the multitude of modern-day technical manipulations.

This does not, however, mean that he holds sacred any one style, genre, technique or writing manner. During his nearly two and a half decades as a composer, one could say that Vidmantas Bartulis has traversed all spheres of musical creativity - manoeuvring between serious and entertainment art, academic and popular culture, sacred music and the theatre of the absurd.

A strictly rational manner of writing is an alien concept as far as this exceptionally versatile and prolific author is concerned. "It is impossible to achieve harmony just like that, as though it were nothing - removed from the world, from the cosmos, which holds so much suffering and so much purity", meditates the composer. In his music there is nearly always a tragic note beneath the playful and light irony.

String of Beads for the Virgin Mary

Bartulis' String of Beads for the Virgin Mary for voice, mixed choir, and string quartet was chosen one of the most memorable Lithuanian music opuses of 2001. This music belongs not only to the category of universal human values, it also bears explicit signs of a multi-culturalism. Here the canonic text rings out in all of the languages representing major world religions: Latin, Hebrew, Hindi, Lithuanian, Japanese, Arabic. "I found this prayer on the internet in at least 46 languages. I came up against the problem of whether the music should reflect the people, mentality, and musical dialect associated with the language used in the piece. It seemed to me that this would become too programmatic, so I tried to create a universal prayer, one which could embody all of the texts."

In this work, the choral part oscillates from pp to mf, with sustained pedals, as if taking on an orchestral function. The background here is allocated to the string quartet, which therefore has to accommodate, and follow the choir. The solo part has no emotional outbursts or dramatic tension, it is internal and quiet. "What should be achieved is an overall fullness and nothing more," says the composer.

When asked which sacred music trend feels the most familiar, the author mentioned Arvo Pärt and Algirdas Martinaitis: "Some take on these canons simply in order to show off, they use them without taking into account the deeper things. But Pärt and Martinaitis live them. Their music can be performed elsewhere - it will always sound organic, and will never conflict with the laws of dogma."

Head of the "Jauna muzika" chamber choir, composer Vaclovas Augustinas says that although it is not a particularly easy piece to perform in concert because of its length and structure, the strangeness of the music can become the drawing-card of the composition. The conductor intends to present it at the international Sacred Music Festival in Šiauliai, and at the international Nordic-Baltic Choir Festival in Klaipėda.


At the end of last year, the Kaunas String Quartet released the second CD of Vidmantas Bartulis' works, entitled "Vidmantas Bartulis: Psalms". Though written for the same combination of instruments, the four recorded pieces are quite different to each other. Psalms is akin to a longing for perfect singing, and extends the line of religious music in Bartulis' works. The singing of the psalms is transformed from shouting to murmuring, and from angry to beautiful - until what settles is an internal peace, an all-encompassing harmony. The work ends with the flash of a motif from Schubert's Du bist die Ruh. The Song and Naujalis Quietly Addresses Vištelis are short works with folk motifs. The title Oh Darling of the First String Quartet is like a playful reference to the lyrics of love. As the musical fabric minimalistically and gradually expands, increasingly resolute impulses spiral into a whirl of livelier impressions.

All of the pieces are written for the Kaunas String Quartet. Cellist with the Quartet is the composer's brother, Saulius Bartulis. "The contents of the recorded disc, the control of the formal design, and the thrift of expressive techniques create a very strong impression," says the performer. "You find the soul of every piece in its very skilfully controlled form and colours, which are usually impossible to inscribe."

Vidmantas Bartulis' latest work awaits its premiere at the Vilnius Festival, as part of the repertoire of renowned jazz saxophone virtuoso Petras Vyšniauskas. The composer claims to prefer not to be tied to any specific genre or style as a result of this work, but to simply strive for an organic expressiveness and a sense of freedom, with no prior claim to that being achievable, or not.

© Rūta Gaidamavičiūtė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 4

Vidmantas Bartulis: Psalms
Psalms (String Quartet No. 2) / The Song / Naujalis Quietly Addresses Vištelis / Oh Darling (String Quartet No. 1)
Kaunas String Quartet: Indrė Andruškevičiūtė (1st violin), Dalia Terminaitė (2nd violin), Adrija Vitkutė (viola), Saulius Bartulis (cello), *Ilona Klusaitė (violin), *Mykolas Daugirdas (viola)
Kaunas String Quartet KSK CD002, 2001