MikolajusKonstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911)
PianoWorks Vol. 2
Adistinguished figure in the arts in Lithuania, Mikolajus Konstantinas Čiuriionis was born on 22nd September 1875 in the small southernLithuanian town of Varena. Two years later hisfamily moved to Druskininkai, where he spent his childhood and adolescence. Afew years later another artist, the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, to be stronglyinfluenced by Čiurlionis, was born in the same city. The latter studied pianoand composition at the Warsaw Music Institute, followed by a period of tuitionin composition at the Leipzig Conservatory. On his return to Warsaw in 1902 he enteredfirst the Warsaw School of Drawing, moving, on its opening in 1904, to theWarsaw School of Fine Arts. There followed exhibitions of his paintings in Warsaw, Vilnius and St. Petersburg. At the same time hecontinued his parallel career in music, directing a Lithuanian choir in Warsaw and a choir in Vilnius, where he settled in1907. He was the founder and director of the Union of Lithuanian Painters andinternational recognition of his work as a painter was assured by hismembership of the Russian Mir Iskusstva, World of Art Society in St. Petersburg. His manifoldactivities were brought to an end by his untimely death in 1911 at the age of35.
Thework of Čiurlionis was based on the view that all arts stem essentially fromthe same source, however different they may seem. Several of his paintings werebased on musical structures, classified as cycles of fugues, sonatas, and soon. A poem by Čiurlionis has the form of a sonata, while much of his music is pictorial.
His compositions include two symphonic poems, In the Forest and The Sea, a stringquartet and a variety of pieces for piano or organ and choral works. His pianopieces are mostly short and lead from the romanticism of the 19th century to amore modern idiom, influenced by expressionism, serialism or neo-classicism,all of which may be found.
Thesecond collection of piano music by Čiurlionis includes his later and moremodern works, with contrasting dynamic and structural elements, and the use of polymodaland polyrhythmic structures, his own interpretation of symbolism. Particularlyexciting is the cycle of three pieces VL 269, VL 270 and VL 271, apparentlythree movements of a planned sonata, to which the unfinished draft of a fuguewould provide a final movement. The string quartet, here transcribed by thepianist Mûza Rubackyté, was written during the composer's Leipzig period, between 1901and 1902. Unfortunately the last movement of the quartet was lost before itcould be published. The Fugue in B flat minor, VL 345, is the last pianocomposition of Čiurlionis. It is solemn and sombre in mood, and, in spite ofits slow tempo, full of inner feeling and latent drama, both lyrical and deeplymoving.
MûzaRubackyté established her reputation as an infant prodigy in her native Lithuania, making her debut as apianist at the age of seven. After study at home, she rnoved in 1976 to the famousTchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow for further study, winning first prize there andsubsequently named laureate in the international piano competitions of Vilnius, Tallinn, the All UnionCompetition of St. Petersburg and the Budapest Liszt-Bartók Competition. Shewas prevented from performing abroad until 1989, when she was able to move to Paris, winning first prizethere in 1990 in the International Grands Maîtres Français Competition. Since thenshe has continued her career as a performer and teacher, at home and abroad,and as a member of the jury in international piano competitions.