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BALAKAUSKAS: Requiem in Memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis

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Osvaldas Balakauskas (b. 1937)

Requiem in memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis (1995)

The music of Osvaldas Balakauskas is, above all,associated with clarity of style and form. Nearly everyone of his compositions bears witness to the composer'scommitment to pure form and the innovativedevelopment of tradition, as does his system ofcomposition, Dodekatonika, which gives his music itsunique harmonic flavour, and is frequently described asBalakauskas's tonality.

As one of the unmistakable leaders of the modernschool of Lithuanian composition, and, in an officialcapacity, as head of the Composition Department at theLithuanian Academy of Music, Osvaldas Balakauskas,when necessary, has not shunned a public r??le. He wasa council member with the Sajūdis movement from 1988to 1992, and Lithuanian ambassador to France, Spainand Portugal (residing in Paris) from 1992 to 1994. Forhis contribution to Lithuanian culture, he was grantedthe National Award in 1996, and the Third Order ofGrand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania in 1998.

Balakauskas's music has aroused interest not only inLithuania. Initially it was heard within the context of theSoviet Union and Eastern Bloc environment, and hisworks were performed at the Moscow Stars Festival, theKrzysztof Penderecki Festival in Lusl??awice, WarsawAutumn, Prague Spring, Berliner Festwochen, ZagrebBiennale, and elsewhere. Later, with a liberalisation ofthe political situation, Osvaldas Balakauskas's musicbegan to make its way into a broader milieu, including,among others, the Helsinki Festival, HuddersfieldContemporary Music Festival, Schleswig-HolsteinFestival, New Haven Arts and Ideas, Europa Musicale,Vale of Glamorgan Festival, and MaerzMusik, amongothers. His artistic career was typical for a composer ofhis generation. It began, during the Khruschev \thaw" inthe early 1960s, with a marked interest in the avantgarde,even though under the Soviet system such interestin innovations from the West was seen as beingsomewhat dissident. Later, in consideration for thecommunicative aspects of his music, Balakauskasreturned to traditions which the avant-gardeendeavoured to deny. It would, however, be incorrect tocall Osvaldas Balakauskas's work post-modernist.

Essentially he remained true to the ideas of modernism,focusing on aspects such as coherence of form, integrityof structural parameters, and a distinctive system ofpitch and modal organization. Totally foreign toBalakauskas is the post-modernist concept thateverything in music has been already created, that whatremains is simply re-creation. In his works anyrecognisable musical elements, jazz, classical cadencesor medieval organum, become an integral part of thecomposer's own unique style.

Osvaldas Balakauskas is not a typical Lithuaniancomposer, in the sense that his musical origins are notconnected with the Lithuanian traditional compositionschool, one of whose basic tenets is founded on folkmusicprinciples. In this aspect his work has always beenparticularly European, and he has been reproached forcreating music which lacked national character.

Interestingly the identity of his music is heardcompletely differently abroad, where the overall moodof his works, and the principles of development of thematerial are seen as features specifically national incharacter.

Balakauskas was greatly influenced by his studieswith Boris Lyatoshynsky at the Kiev Conservatoirebetween 1964 and 1969. It was not a conservatory on thelevel of Moscow or Leningrad, and the professor wasconsidered fairly conservative, but while in Kiev,Balakauskas immersed himself in the modernistunderground of Ukraine, in an atmosphere that wasmissing in Vilnius. He was close friends withcontemporaries Leonid Hrabovsky and ValentinSilvestrov, and collaborated with a group of talentedyoung composers who were eagerly engrossed in ideascoming from the West, and who actively resisted thestandardised aesthetics of Soviet music, which at thattime was primarily orientated towards the work ofDmitry Shostakovich and Sergey Prokofiev.

Balakauskas returned to Vilnius in 1972 as a matureartist. He avoided the innovations of the WarsawAutumn, which affected a great many other Lithuaniancomposers in that period, and is one of those composerswho is not overly concerned with music fashion, firstselecting and proving each innovation himself, to bedescribed, perhaps, as a Lithuanian Messiaen. Hisdodecaphonic principles, the creation of new tonalconnections within the series of non-repeating notes(usually from eight to twelve), which are built not asabstract sound constructions, but as modes with inherentlaws of harmonic tension, initially reveal his spiritualaffinity with the creative thinking of the French master.

His delicate rhythmic games (metro-rhythmicprogressions, additive augmentation of prolongeddurations) are also evocative of Messiaen's nonretrogradablerhythms, though Balakauskas's rhythmicsystems derive from the theories of Boris Blacher.

Finally there is a common focus on sound colour -Balakauskas is considered one of the most sensitivemasters of orchestration in Lithuanian music - and acertain leaning towards musical exoticism.

The creative style of Balakauskas has changed overa period of nearly forty years, and it is possible todelineate it according to more detailed or broaderperiods. At the present time the composer is striving formusical simplicity (i.e., for all parameters to be subjectto a single principle, rather than simplifying the musicitself), and he also declares himself as having returned tojazz favoured by him since his youth, to swingingrhythms and quasi-improvisational melodies. Stylisticchanges in his work were never radical, however, andhis writing remains recognisable from his very first tothe most recent compositions.

Requiem in memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis (1995) isan exceptional work in Osvaldas Balakauskas's output.

It is his only religious composition, and marks a newturning-point in the direction of simplicity. Unusual alsois the fact that, for the first time, the composer openlydeclares his spiritual, as well as his public principles.

This is not characteristic of him, as he had professed toadhere to the self-sufficiency of music as a specificsphere of art.

The Requiem appeared as the result of a strongexternal impulse. Stasys Lozoraitis (1924-1994), aformer Lithuanian diplomat representing Lithuania atthe Holy See and in America during the Soviet period,died in 1994. He ran for president in independentLithuania in 1993, and although he lost the election,became an unquestionable authority in the country. Hisunexpected death shocked Lithuania's intellectuals, andBalakauskas's Requiem, written the following year,embodied the nation's respect for him. This work is noequal to the monumental settings of Berlioz, Verdi,Britten or Penderecki, with their exaltation of universalmourning. According to Enrique Alberto Arias, aprofessor at Chicago DePaul University, Balakauskas'sRequiem could be assigned to the neo-medieval trend ofthe twentieth century, as represented by Tavener andPart, and by some works of Hindemith and Messiaen. Acertain contextual parallel could also be made withGabriel Faure and Maurice Durufle's serene settings,whose originality stems from their use of a Gregorianchant. Balakauskas does revert to the tradition ofliturgical music from the early Middle Ages, Gregorianchant and organum, as well as ars nova motets, but hedoes not follow the canonical structure of a RequiemMass. The structure of Balakauskas's Requiem is moreakin to the concert tradition of the genre. The workconsists of twelve parts: the Requiem Introit and theKyrie, the Dies irae sequence divided into five parts(Dies irae, Tuba mirum, Rex tremendae, Recordare,Confutatis), the Domine Jesu offertory, Hostias,Sanctus, Benedictus, fo
Item number 8557604
Barcode 747313260423
Release date 11/01/2004
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Conductors Katkus, Donatas
Orchestras St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra
Disc: 1
Requiem in Memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis
1 Requiem in Memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis
2 Dies irae
3 Tuba mirum
4 Rex tremendae
5 Recordare
6 Confutatis
7 Domine Jesu
8 Hostias
9 Sanctus
10 Benedictus
11 Lacrymosa
12 Agnus Dei
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