Striking Oratorios by Bronius Kutavičius: One Music – Different Media

  • Feb. 26, 2020

Music Information Centre Lithuania has released a collection of oratorios by living Lithuanian cultural legend Bronius Kutavičius, entitled Last Pagan Rites and From the Yotvingian Stone. Both graphic scores of oratorios have been published in a newly edited collector’s edition, while recordings by chamber choir Aidija have been released on vinyl. A new work by video artist Rimas Sakalauskas, inspired by the dronelike minimalism, creative cosmic powers and apocalyptic overtones of Last Pagan Rites, has been released alongside the collection.

Both oratorios have had a striking effect both in Lithuania and internationally, and remain highly influential today. Composed 40 years ago, Last Pagan Rites is considered to be the most important Lithuanian musical composition of the second half of the twentieth century, marking the beginnings of Lithuanian minimalism. This does not originate from American or European post-minimalism, but rather has its roots in the ‘pagan minimalism’ that originated in archaic forms of Baltic music. The poet Sigitas Geda, a very close friend of the composer, called it “the voice of blood.”

According to Rimas Sakalauskas, Kutavičius’ oratorio Last Pagan Rites has been on his personal playlist for about a decade. “The minimalism and dronelike soundscape of the oratorio is very close to my personal taste and the aesthetic values of my generation,” – says the artist. “I set aside all other projects in order to create this apocalyptic odyssey: the collision of the old shapes that we know with non-human and extraterrestrial forms of life.”

Indeed, the archaic themes in Bronius Kutavičius’ oratorios about mythological history, imagined musical prehistory, and evolution of the Baltic people, are very open to interpretations and metamorphoses. Rimas Sakalauskas chose this particular direction as he wanted to create a non-stereotypical video clip featuring science fiction storylines rather than the artefacts of a Baltic ethnographic museum.   

“My video does not feature people, only landscapes and extraterrestrial life forms. These strange hi-tech natural or even cosmic organisms spread everywhere like a virus; but it is not clear whether it spreads new life or infects the old forms with death. Similarly, Paganism was supplanted by Christianity, which in the video clip is represented by the organ pipes used to create the futuristic structures,” – comments Sakalauskas.

Extraterrestrial life forms, evolutionary processes, advanced technology – these might remind us of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the artist says that he was more inspired by the music video style of Scottish electronic music duo, Boards of Canada. “To be honest, the apocalyptic mood was also intensified by current affairs – tension around Coronavirus and the news that I follow continuously,” – confides the artist.

The video clip features the music from the new recording by the choir Aidija. The performance was so intense that the great stones of the Baltic land, a relic cherished by the performers, which were used for the recording, cracked. The choir, and especially its artistic director Romualdas Gražinis, have a close, long-standing relationship with the composer and his work. This bond has helped the choir to develop its distinctive features and led it with determination through the graphic rebuses of the oratorio scores.

The chamber choir Aidija have recorded Last Pagan Rites and From the Yotvingian Stone together with guest performers: mezzo soprano Nora Petročenko, organist Renata Marcinkute-Lesieur and wooden folk horn players Arvydas Jankus, Ramūnas Strolys, Algirdas Jedemskis, Dainius Petručionis, and Tomas Matevičius.

Recording sessions, sheet music publications and vinyl record production were supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture. The activities of the Music Information Centre Lithuania are also supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. The publication and recordings are available for purchase at the

Translated from the Lithuanian by Erika Lastovskytė