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Czech-lithuanian music contacts in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Music is one of several areas that deserve a chapter to them selves in thehistory of Czech-lithuanian relations. These relations go back deep into history At random we might mention the mission of St. Voitech to Pagao prussia the deliberate elevation of Duke Vytautas the Great to the Bohemian throne the Jagielton Dynasty and so on Musical contacts between the Lithuanian and Czech Lands started to develop more vigorously in the 17th, 18th centuries the especially in the 19th century and have continued to deepen up to the present. Since these contacts usually ran in the Bohemia to Rithuania direction they take been almost entirely overlooked in Czech musical this storigraphy in this essay on the basis of a concise overview we shall try to show that Czech-lithunian musical relations have been quite extensive and significant and have been unjustly neglected.

Teaching has been one of the most important forms of Czech musical influence on Lithunian music. This was particularly evident in the later 19th century, when the organ and orchestral schools founded at the courts of music patrons and producing a whole series of subsequently important figures became a distinctive phenomenon for the emergent Lithuanian national musical tradition. At one such school, opened in 1874 in the small town of Rokiskis, Rudolf Liehmann, son of Dvorak's teacher A. Liehmann, worked from 1883-1904, He taught the organ here and his pupils included such names as Mikas Petrauskas, Juozas Tallat-Kelpsa and Juozas Gruodis.

At roughly the same time (1883-1905) another Czech musician, Josef Masek (lit Josefas Masekas) was pursuing his music and teaching career at the orchestral school attached to the court of Bogdan Oginsky in Rietavas. This school worked very closely with a similar institution in nearby Plunges, which belonged to Oginsky brother Mykol, One of the students here was the young M. K. Ciurlionis, later the founder of Lithuanian national music and a painter of genius. Masek was supposedly the man who recognised Ciurlionis's creative talent and recomended his further training.

Even earlier than Liehmann and Masek, Zdenek Fibich set out for Lithuania and worked there from 1873 as a teacher of secular choral singing at five schools in Vilnius. This was not one of the happiest periods in Fibichs life (the death of his son and sisterin-law and the onset of his wife's lung disease), and so after 11 months the composer decided to return to Prague. Nonetheless, even in this relatively short time Fibich had developed a knowledge of Lithuanian culture, It is known that at 0. Hostinskys suggestion he even thought of composing an opera called "Konrad Wallenrod" based on the eponymous Mickiewicz poem that draws on Lithuanian history.

Another great Czech musician, the conductor VaSa, Suk twice stopped for a short while in Vilnius (in 1890 and later in 1893). Before he became famous throughout Russia he conducted the orchestra of the Krtavov Private Opera in the Lithuanian capital.

One episode that deserves detailed and wider attention is that of the triangle formed by the Czech Nonet - Jeronimas Kacinskas -- Alois Haba In 1924-1928 the Czech Nonet led by Emil Leichner was active at the music conservatory just founded by Stasys Simkus in the port town of Klaipeda The members of the nonet made important contributions to the development of instrumental play among Lithuanian musicians. J. Kacinskas, later regarded as one of the most assertive and radical Lithuanian composers of the Thirties and Forties, was studying piano and composition at the Klaipeda Conservatory at the time. On Leichner's recommendation he was admitted to the Prague Conservatory in 1929, He joined J. Kricka's class, but like many other Czech and foreign students he also registered in the course on the quarter-tone and sixth-tone system taught by A. Haba. Haba's pioneering experiments so entranced Kacinskas that it was under their influence that he wrote his graduation piece -- Second String Ouartet in the Quarter-tone System" (1931),

Kacinskas's return to Lithuania did not mean the end of these contacts, The Lithuanian composer corresponded intensively with Haba showed great interest in new ideas in micro-interval music and told Haba about his own activities, which included the opening of a class in quarter-tone music at the Klaipeda Conservatory. Kacinskas also wrote articles for the journal Muzikos barai, in which he warmly praised Czech music and spoke of Prague as an important European cultural centre. He asked Haba for an article, and the latter posted the journal an essay entitled "Jeronimas Kacinskas - the first Lithuanian composer of quarter-tone music" (1931).

Kacinskas continued to work with the Czech Nonet, who commissioned him to write a piece for them. The composer responded in 1932 with three movements of a "Nonet" (he finished the fourth movement in 1936), which Haba said was one of the best European modern works of music of its time. With this opus, written in athematic style, the Czech Nonet made successful appearances not only in Lithuania (positive reviews appeared in many local papers after its tour of Lithuanian towns in 1932), but throughout Europe, including Czechoslovakia (the premiere of the complete four-movement piece was presented at a Czech Nonet concert in Prague on the 19th of February 1937). The Nonet was also performed at the time of the SIMC (International Society for Contemporary Music) in London in 1938, at which A. Haba helped to ensure the acceptance of Lithuania as the first of the Baltic countries to join the organisation.

We meet the name Kacinskas in the Czech Lands once again, but in rather sadder circumstances, when the composer spent some time in Lednice when he was fleeing from Lithuania to America.

Jeronimas Kacinskas de facto started the tradition of Lithuanian musicians studying in Prague, since after him many other Lithuanians came to the city to perfect their art They included the conductor Vytautas Marijosius, the choirmaster Antanas Vaiciunas, the violinist and teacher Elena Strazdaite-Bekeriene, and for a short period the composer Kazimieras Viktoras Banaitis.

Jaroslav Galia was particularly active in developing contacts between (not only) Czechs and Lithuanians. His career was very varied, and included a period as choirmaster in Rostov and music teacher in Novorossisk, Irkutsk and elsewhere. In 1921 he joined the diplomatic service, and became ambassador in Lithuania and Estonia, where he zealously promoted Czech music (he was a contributor to the Lithuanian journal Muzikas and the Estonian journal Muusikaleht). He composed a "Te Deum" which was premiered in Kaunasu in 1928 during the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Lithuanian Republic. Galia was also a personal friend of the Lithuanian composer Ceslovas Sasnauskas, who in 1911 wrote the first version of his "Requiem". Five years later J. Galia instrumentalised this piece (the reworked version was performed in 1930 in Prague).

Sasnauskas became friends with another Czech musician, Hynek Vojacek, who was for many years a bassoonist in the Imperial Opera in St. Petersburg, and who seems to have had a significant influence on Sasnauskas's direction as a composer.

In addition to direct personal contacts we can also find occasional inter-cultural influences in the work of Lithuanian and Czech composers. One example can be found in the music of Antonin Dvorak. In 1877 he got to know the musician and leading Czech philologist and Baltic specialist Josef Zubaty, who introduced him to Celakovsky's translations of Lithuanian folksongs. Dvorak chose some for his choral work "Five Songs for Male Voices on Words from Lithuanian Songs", op. 27(1881).

The contemporary Czech composer, Ivan Kurz, also drew on Lithuanian culture when in 1979 he wrote a two-movement string quartet with the title "Notokruh" [Note Circle], inspired by a picture cycle by M. K. Ciurlionis, called "Star Sonata". The piece was first presented in Prague in 1981, performed by the Luzecky Quartet, and it is still one of the author's most successful works. Kurz himself has happy memories of the Lithuanian premiere of "Notokruh", which received great ovations at the Gaida Festival in Vilnius in 1996 (played by the Vilnius String Quartet).

Our country has provided inspiration for Lithuanians in its turn. For example there is a surviving letter from Ciurlionis to his patroness Bronislava Wolmanova, written during the composer's travels through Europe: "Prague is beautiful and fascinating city, with old Gothic towers all over the place. The Old Town is like a fairy tale: a beautiful, black gate, darkened by the centuries; a bridge lined with the tall statues of saints; streets so narrow at places that you can pass through them only on a bicycle. I visited the Rudolphinum, or Arts Museum, and saw the Holy Family by Michelangelo, The Martyrs and St. Augustine by Rubens, and Portrait of a Boy with a Dog by Van Dyck. The museum has several halls, but I mention only the pictures I liked, My impression of the Kunstgewerke Museum are very chaotic; I can't begin to enumerate all that I saw there: Italian majolicas, Greek and Roman antiquities, Persian vases, (...)."

Another Lithuanian composer Feliksas Bajoras also came to the former Czechoslovakia and drew on the atmosphere in his work. Under the influence of his visit to the CSSR he wrote a one-movement symphony for strings, called "Stalactites" (1970). He gave programmatic names to the different episodes of this work, each relating to a place in the Czech Lands or Slovakia (The Tatras, Lidice, Vysehrad, Prague etc.).

We hope that this overview (which has been far from exhaustive) has at least suggested the richness of the theme, Let us then express the hope that Czech-Lithuanian musical contacts, which continue to thrive (for example with concerts in both countries, or the teaching work of the Lithuanian harpsichordist and organist Giedre Luksaite-Mrazkova at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague etc.) will deepen in the future.
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Author:Mikes, Vitezslav
Publication:Czech Music
Geographic Code:4EXCZ
Date:May 1, 2002
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