Vidmantas Bartulis: Festival in Canada, 2 Summer Premieres

photo: Arūnas Baltėnas

"Introspective, contemplative, elegiac, humourous and imbued with poetry" - these were the words with which Jeremy Bell, artistic director of Numus, introduced the chamber music of Vidmantas Bartulis to the Canadian public. Out of a fairly large sheaf of works by contemporary Lithuanian composers, he had chosen four of Bartulis' chamber pieces for a four-concert series - 'Bartulis Fest' - to be held in three Canadian cities. Bartulis had a unique opportunity to attend his own works - Amen (1992) for soprano, chamber ensemble and tape, The Quarry I (2001) for chamber ensemble, I Like F. Schubert (1998) for string orchestra, and String Quartet No.2 Psalms (1999) - performed during March 8-11 at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, the Music Gallery in Toronto, and Forrest City in London, Ontario. This unprecedented event was also unique in that all of the composer's works were independently rehearsed and performed by Canadian performers: the Ergo chamber ensemble which was specially formed for this project, the Wilfrid Laurier University Chamber Orchestra, and the Penderecki String Quartet (with Jeremy Bell as its first violinist), which played String Quartet No.2 during a separate program at Wilfried Laurier University.

Among the features that nevertheless emerged were a fondness for strong contrasts, extremes of expression and unusual scoring. Bartulis is clearly his own man... the most obviously intriguing turned out to be the most intriguingly titled, a quasi-minimalistic, almost hypnotically simple piece, thematically indebted to Schubert’s C Major Quintet with two cellos.
Toronto Star

'Bartulis Fest' was the start of an international cultural exchange project, organized by "Ergo Projects", and the Lithuanian and Canadian sections of ISCM. Lithuanian composers involved in the more than one year long project include Šarūnas Nakas, Vytautas Germanavičius, Bronius Kutavičius, and Algirdas Martinaitis.

There is another trip awaiting Vidmantas Bartulis at the beginning of May. This time he will be travelling east - to the annual contemporary "Mus-Transit" festival in Kazan, Tatarstan - in the company of his two colleagues, Vytautas Germanavičius and Algirdas Martinaitis. The festival program includes performances of their chamber works, as well as meetings and discussions with the local music community.

Premiering in June, is one of Vidmantas Bartulis' largest works; it also happens to be one which, in the last decade, has taken the longest to make its way from conception to concert performance. His new oratorio Poor Little Man Job, a five part composition for mixed choir, symphony orchestra, and five soloists, will be performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra and Kaunas State Choir (conducted by Robertas Šervenikas), at the Vilnius Festival.

"I wanted to construct the Old Testament story about Job somewhat differently, depicting him as a hostage between two collaborating forces - the highest and the lowest," says Bartulis. "The title of the piece came from this, somewhat different point of view, and it seems to prompt the listener into understanding that the Book of Job is not being retold in sequence here. The function of the Latin text is more phonetic than literal - a means for procuring and articulating sound." The work maintains the style - a commentary-response structure - of the literary source. Here the choir plays a very important role, as a primordial force existing everywhere and at all times, and uttering the words of God in the denouement. The principal theme and moral of the Biblical story remain authentic: regardless of his misfortunes, Job remains true to God. It is his faith which reaps him the happiness and good-fortune which he had lost.

Vidmantas Bartulis' works are always surprising and captivating in their colourfulness of style and genre; his artistic projects range from religious compositions to the theatre of the absurd. One such example of the composer's universality - his cantata Our Lithuania, dedicated to the Coronation Day of Mindaugas - will premiere at the Cathedral Square in Vilnius on July 2. According to the author, the definition of genre in this case is fairly relative, for his intention was to create a musical event, a celebration for the audience. Here, traditional cantata choral singing is combined with rock and pop music, and film. The event will be staged and directed by Jonas Arčikauskas, and conducted by Petras Bingelis. The composer mentioned that the audience is in for a surprise at the end. The cantata Our Lithuania is the start of a series of musical events dedicated to the 3rd World Lithuanian Song Festival.

© Rimutė Brilienė

Lithuanian Music Link No. 6