Interpretations of Baroque in Current Lithuanian Culture

Jūratė Landsbergytė-Becher (PDF)

The concept of Baroque in Lithuania encompasses the retrospective of several centuries and gets transformed in the interpretations used in the works of modern artists. It indicates the actual return of composers to Baroque and is reinforced by a strong literary current, which opened up a powerful source of Lithuanian identity that had been blocked for a long time during the occupations. In addition to the mature Baroque of musical forms and the designation of the depth and forms of cultural memory, the literary text consolidates an even stronger narrative of the flow of time and becomes a guide through the current historicism of Lithuanian self-awareness. In this sense, the works of composers Onutė Narbutaitė (*1956) and Algirdas Martinaitis (*1950), and a writer Kristina Sabaliauskaitė (*1974) are exceptional, because in them Baroque acquires powerful interpretations and unfolds through the meanings of Vilnius. Here we can also mention the symphonic piece The Sarabande of Vilnius (2023) by Gediminas Gelgotas (*1986) and Kristina Sabaliauskaitė dedicated to the 700th anniversary of Vilnius. For each of these creators, Baroque is different.

An incredible example of Narbutaitė’s liberation of Baroque meanings in the flow of music is her composition A Melody in the Garden of Olives for trumpet and two Quartets (2000), which laid the basis for Symphony No. 2 (2001). Here, a peculiar historicism of the “will of the world” is reached in the stream of music, similar to the grandeur of a Wagnerian infinite melody transcending into the tragedy of our time.

The trumpet plays the part of the biblical dimension, the voice of God, and remains in the “eternal ringing of memory”. It is a transcendental transformation of Baroque into the European Baltic landscape. Martinaitis’ relationship with Baroque unfolds through interaction between Vilnius’ architecture and nature. A good example is Cantus Relictus Vilnensis for flute and organ (2016), which the author fondly calls The Little Bird of Vilnius. The bird’s voice, represented by the flute interpretation of Martinaitis’ compositions, enters into a dialogue with structural Baroque forms: in this case, with hoquetus. The motif of a step/an echo is architecture-like, and a bird’s trill reflects the concept of Lithuanian freedom.

Meanwhile, Sabaliauskaitė’s literary texts turn into a unique “endless melody”  – a linguistic archaeology of memory to uncover the meanings of ancient revivals that is incredibly open to the present, shining with the ever-new colours of Vilnius’ images and the lines of historicism of the Lithuanian state. It is the return of history, not only through transformation but through the memory depths of self-consciousness. The unique power of the historical narrative is opened up from a new angle. In Gelgotas’ work, it is combined anew with the transformation of the Baltic minimalism  – the process of the melodic infinity and the global determination – and the idea of a dance step. We can firmly say that the Baroque is once again spreading its power and is participating in the culture of modern Lithuania through its own meaningful interpretations.

Key words: Baroque, transformations, music, text, melody, step, infinity