Vytautas Barkauskas' Jeux

Vytautas Barkauskas belongs to the same generation as Alfred Schnittke, Sofija Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, Arvo Pärt, Pēteris Vasks, and his own favourite, Krzysztof Penderecki. During the 1960s, Vytautas Barkauskas was considered one of the leaders of the Lithuanian avant-garde - one of the first to experiment with the possibilities of dodecaphony, musique concrete and polystilistics. Without rejecting his avant-garde experience, over the past several decades the composer has allowed tonality and a traditional concept of dramaturgy of form to enter his creative workshop. At the present time he is writing concert pieces designed for a contemporary philharmonic tradition.

Barkauskas is a master of a 'Mozartian' synthesis of style. His music radiates the most subtly sensual charm. In a certain sense, he is like a Frenchman among his heavyweight academic colleagues... A freely applied dodecaphony, folk harmonies, aleatoric freedom, polyrhythms and unconventional forms - they all submit to him - immersing both the performers and the audience into pleasant (and extremely virtuosic) situations and an impression of the flow of unobstructed music.
Lutz Lesle, Das Orchester

Barkauskas' music is dramatic, sparkling, emotional, and well liked by performers - who were the ones to popularize his works outside of Lithuania. They include such maestros as Gidon Kremer, who says he has played Partita (1967) "all his life" (the piece has now also become a favourite of Oleh Krysa, Ilya Kaler, Pekka Kuusisto and other violinists), and cellist David Geringas and his wife, pianist Tatyana Geringas, who frequently include Suite de concert, Op. 98 (1993) in their repertoire. No less important to the acceptance of Barkauskas' works are the efforts of Edition Peters, which has published many of his compositions, and has been collaborating with the composer since 1971. There is also violist Yury Bashmet, whose personality and musical ability inspired the composer, and to whom he later dedicated Concerto for viola and chamber orchestra, Op. 63 (1981). The stage life of this piece began only two decades later, when it once again "took root" in Bashmet's repertoire. This year it was also performed, on March 17 at the Berlin Philharmonic, by Hans Joachim Greiner and the Kammerorchester Berliner Cappella, under Günter Berger.

The concept of the work - the opposition of man, the artist, and his spiritual values against oppressive surroundings and routine - dictated the relationship between soloist and orchestra: "Soloist ahead of the orchestra in the 1st movement, soloist with the orchestra in the 2nd movement, and soloist beside or above the orchestra in the finale." The three eloquent and somewhat nostalgic viola monologues (Cadenza, Largo, Coda) aptly reveal the emotionally expressive capabilities of the specific and "unconcert-like" viola timbre. Yury Bashmet's phenomenal viola can once again be heard performing this work on April 28 at the Noga Croisette Theater in Cannes, and on April 30 in Toulon, together with l'Orchestre Regional de Cannes, conducted by Philippe Bender.

In March, the Vilnius Recording Studio in collaboration with the LMIPC released an album of the author's works entitled "Barkauskas. Kremer. Bashmet". Included together with the "chrestomathic" Partita for violin solo, and Viola Concerto, are works written by the composer during the last fourteen years.

At the present time, the composer is creating his 117th opus - Jeux for violin solo and orchestra - commissioned by the Consonances festival in Saint-Nazaire, France, and its artistic director, violinist Philippe Graffin, who will be its first performer. This year the festival is dedicated to the Hungarian virtuoso, violinist József Joachim - hence Barkauskas' Jeux will also be a virtuosic and concert-like composition. Here, unlike in the Viola Concerto, the emphasis is not on dramatization but on the interplay between the solo and orchestral parts. The soloist is not in opposition to the orchestra: they are partners "in the game". The composer, who will attend this chamber music festival as guest-composer (see calendar of events), simultaneously creates two versions of the new Violin Concerto: one with a reduced symphony orchestra, the other with an instrumental ensemble, where the orchestra strings are replaced by a string quintet. The choice belongs to the festival organizers.

© Beata Baublinskienė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 4

Vytautas Barkauskas. Gidon Kremer. Yuri Bashmet
Partita for violin solo / Allegro brillante / Trio for violin, clarinet, and piano / Journey of the Princess / Concerto piccolo / Concerto for viola and string orchestra
Gidon Kremer (violin), Rūta and Zbignevas Ibelhauptas (piano duo), Raimundas Katilius (violin), Algirdas Budrys (clarinet), Sergejus Okruško (piano), Vilnius String Quartet, Rokas and Sonata Zubovas (piano duo), Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, cond. Saulius Sondeckis, Yuri Bashmet (viola), Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, cond. Robertas Šervenikas
Vilnius Recording Studio VSCD-101, 2002