Vidmantas Bartulis’ new album features music “he loved”

  • April 6, 2023

Music Information Centre Lithuania in collaboration with the Vilnius City St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra has released an album of music by composer Vidmantas Bartulis (1954-2020), I Like…, featuring four works for string orchestra and soloists, all more or less frequently heard. Bartulis is always remembered by his friends and colleagues with extraordinary warmth and affection. He would have turned 69 this week.

In a variety of styles, genres, mannerisms, moods and experiences, Bartulis's music surpasses that of many of his Lithuanian colleagues, surprising with its unexpected twists and turns. In many of his compositions, he looked back to the music of the past, quoting and reinterpreting it in the paradoxical contexts of today.

According to musicologist Rasa Murauskaitė-Juškienė, the creator of the album's annotation, the first piece on the album, Psalms, opens up the orchestra's lyrical potential, posing a difficult challenge of subtlety in performance. In this composition, we hear Bartulis as we know him, difficult to "calculate", guided by sonic flair, revealing what is interesting and important to him in music.

Concerto for Two Violins, Piano and String Orchestra is characterised by a fairly coherent harmonic structure and a continuous, dashing movement. In the opinion of many, this work is unexpectedly associated with the repetitive minimalism of Bronis Kutavičius. To which Vidmantas himself reacted: "His music has influenced me a lot. When I tell him, he laughs, and I feel uncomfortable. But there is no shame..." The solo parts of this piece were recorded by violinists Rūta Lipinaitytė and Ingrida Rupaitė and the pianist Indrė Baikštytė.

The album's centrepiece is perhaps "I Like F. Schubert", which has echoes of the composer's "hooligan" grotesque period of three or four decades ago. The four movements of the composition are based on the material of the Adagio movement of Franz Schubert's Quintet in C major, but it is rendered here in four very different ways of "high postmodern pilotage". The first episode is an infinitely reduced minimalism, an endless repetition of one or a couple of notes "plucked" from Schubert's music. The second is the middle theme of Schubert's Adagio, which is drawn into a snowy swirl, covered in a 'mould' of moderate dissonances. The third is a fierily hypertrophied opening theme, and the fourth is its closing theme, which returns in a calm "classical" form.

The alternation of these episodes was so incredible that even the theatre critic Jūratė Visockaitė, in her review of the season's theatre premieres, called I Like F. Schubert, which was performed in concert (on the occasion of the composer's receipt of the National Prize for Culture and Arts), the season's most memorable theatrical (!) event.

According to Modestas Barkauskas, director and conductor of the St.Christopher Chamber Orchestra, I Like H. Berlioz (Lointaine) is a very interesting work that has only been performed once, so this is the first recording capturing the existence of the work and making it possible for a broader range of listeners to become acquainted with his work. The orchestra is always enthusiastic about premiering new, unperformed works by Lithuanian composers, so this album is another very important step in the process of perpetuating and celebrating Lithuanian music. The flute soloist in this work is Giedrius Gelgotas.

In an interview, Bartulis himself said that he did not like Berlioz at all. "It's not the kind of music I could listen to for more than an hour. But Donatas Katkus called and said: 'Don't be angry, you'll have to write it, because I've already sent the title of the piece to France.'" That's how sometimes important works for the history of our music come about.

The album I Like… was recorded by the St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra together with the Baltic Mobile Recordings team, led by Vilius and Aleksandra Kerai, in the former premises of the Vilnius Recording Studio. The album's designer Liudas Parulskis used a photograph of the composer, taken by Petras Vyšniauskas, for the cover. The album I Like… is available for purchase at the Music Information Centre Lithuania's e-shop,, and for listening and digital purchase at Bandcamp.

The recording and publishing of the album was financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.