About this Recording
8.223323 - CIURLIONIS, M.K.: Sea (The) / In the Forest / Five Preludes


Mikolajus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911 )

The Sea (Jūra)

In the Forest (Miške)

Five Preludes (arranged for string orchestra)


Lithuania has enjoyed a distinguished past. From the time in the mid-thirteenth century when the country, under its warrior leader, turned to Christianity and made peace with the Teutonic knights, there was territorial expansion that extended to the Black Sea. The union with Poland in the fourteenth century, under the Grand Duke Jagiello, lasted until 1795, when Poland was partitioned and Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire. In 1917 Lithuania became an independent republic, a situation that lasted until the secret protocol of the Soviet-German treaty of 1939.


Lithuania was relatively late in developing its own culture. Union with Poland led to the use of the Polish language by the ruling classes and limited national artistic development, while absorption into the Russian Empire presented a threat of another kind. Music tended, in consequence, to be foreign rather than national in form, except for the indigenous art of the peasantry. The country shared in the music of Catholic Europe and of the Counter-Reformation, but, as in Russia itself, it was the nineteenth century that brought a new current of national feeling and a sense of national identity, in part through the work of the Polish poet Mickiewicz, friend and inspiration to Chopin, who made Vilnius the centre of romantic interest. He had studied at the university there, and based much of his earlier work on legends of Lithuanian epic heroism. Like Chopin, he chose exile in Paris, avoiding the Polish attempts at independence of 1830. The abortive rising against the Tsarist government in 1863 led to the banning of publications in Lithuanian, unless printed in Cyrillic, a prohibition only lifted in 1904. National music found expression in choral singing, and amateur orchestras, often in primitive surroundings, and in the foundation of organ schools.


Mikolujas Konstantinas Čiurlionis was born at Varena in southern Lithuania in 1875, the son of an organist. From the age of fourteen he studied at the music school in Plunge, acquiring a knowledge of various instruments, following this in 1894 by a period at the Warsaw Music Institute as a piano pupil eventually of the widely cultured Antoni Sygietynnski. He later studied composition with Zygmunt Noskowski, whose pupils included Szymanowski and Fitelberg, and went on to further study of composition in Leipzig with Liszt¡¦s pupil Salomon Jadassohn and Carl Reinecke. In 1902 he began to develop another aspect of his talent when he entered the Warsaw Drawing School, moving two years later to the newly established School of Fine Arts, and exhibiting in Warsaw in 1905 and in Vilnius, where he made his home in 1907. As a painter he won posthumous success with exhibitions in Warsaw, Vilnius and St. Petersburg soon after his death.


Čiurlionis was closely concerned with Lithuanian nationalism, boosted by the removal of publication restrictions in 1904. He involved himself in the national choral movement, and was deeply interested in Lithuanian folk-music, an enthusiasm that his youngest sister, 24 years his junior, was to pursue with great distinction to become the leading authority on the subject. In 1909 he moved to St. Petersburg, but returned to Lithuania before his death at the age of 35 in 1911.


The symphonic poem The Sea (Jūra) was started in 1903 and completed in 1907. In texture it has about it more of Richard Strauss than of Debussy, although the orchestra is handled with sensitivity to produce an overtly pictorial effect, much as some of the paintings of Čiurlionis had been conceived in quasi-musical terms as pictorial sonatas. The sea is shown in a variety of moods, gentle, lyrical, running deep and rising to a climax of grandeur.


The shorter symphonjc poem In the Forest (Miške) was written in 1900, before the departure of Čiurlionis for Leipzig. It is tempting once more to hear parallels with contemporaries, with Sibelius in Finland in mood, and with composers of Germany in a skilled and colourful use of the orchestra in music that is evocative but never merely narrative.


The Five Preludes arranged for string orchestra were originally written for piano, a reminder of the distinction of Čiurlionis both as a performer and as a composer for the keyboard, and a reminder, too, of the contemporaneous work of Szymanowski in this vein.


The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra


The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its distinguished conductors. These include Vaclav Talich (1949-1952), Ludovit Rajter, Ladislav Slovak and Libor Pešek. Zdenék Košler has also had a long and distinguished association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most successful recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvořák.


During the years of its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the direction of many of the most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti. The orchestra has undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to Germany and Japan, and has made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus label, for Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos labels. These recordings have brought the orchestra a growing international reputation and praise from the critics of leading international publications.


Juozas Domarkas


Juozas Domarkas is generally considered the leading conductor in Lithuania. He studied at the Conservatories in Vilnius and Leningrad and subsequently with Igor Markevitch, before his appointment in 1964 as chief conductor of the Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra in Vilnius. In addition to his career at home he has conducted frequently in Leningrad and in Moscow, and in other countries.

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