Author Topic: Bronius Kutavicius  (Read 4499 times)

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Offline Maciek

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Bronius Kutavicius
« on: November 05, 2007, 12:55:12 PM »


Bronius Kutavičius is probably the most famous Lithuanian composer today, and a cult figure of sorts in his country. We've had fleeting discussions of his works several times here and on the old forum, so I thought I'd start a separate thread. I'm not particularly fond of the works released on the two Ondine albums, I do however think Gates of Jerusalem is a masterpiece. I also think very highly of From the Jatvingian Stone and The Tree of Earth - both have a very fresh feeling to them. It's worth mentioning that his music is very accessible. The programmatic elements are, however, usually silly (at least for my taste).
« Last Edit: November 05, 2007, 12:58:22 PM by Maciek »

Offline some guy

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2007, 10:21:22 AM »
If only "most famous" could somehow translate into "lots of CDs available."

But "oh well."

I first heard Lokys, the Bear in that Ondine release. That opera is obsessively gorgeous. It replaced Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth in my collection as the opera I could not take out of the CD player.

It was weeks before I could listen to anything else, it seemed. It helped that I was able to quickly get several other Kutavicius discs in fairly short order (and that I discovered another obsessively engaging piece in my LP collection, Robert Ashley's In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven there were Men and Women).

Lokys, the Bear is not in the same league as Lachenmann's Das kleine Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, or Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, but it's a fine piece on its own terms and bears up well under repeated listenings, as I certainly found to be true!

Offline Maciek

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2007, 04:24:44 PM »
Well, as I've said before, I'm not exactly a great fan of Lokys (I loved the production though) but I don't own a recording so it isn't completely impossible that I wouldn't warm to it on repeated hearings... (whew, what a convoluted way of saying that... 0:))

I think there is a danger of oversimplifying things in his music, and apart from writing some glorious stuff, he sometimes manages to attain unimaginable lows... Here's something that could have been written by Zygmunt Konieczny. Now, Zygmunt Konieczny is a genius of sorts in his genres (film music and something we call in Poland "actor's song") but his music really doesn't work in a concert hall (luckily, he doesn't write concert music). Neither does this little thing by Kutavicius (3rd installment in his Seasons cycle) - Kutavicius has always reminded me of Karl Orff but this piece makes me think the comparison is sometimes really unfair to Orff:
Bronius Kutavičius - Rudenio gerybes (Metai 3) (2007)
Performed by the Aidija Choir, and the Šv. Kristoforo Chamber Orchestra conducted by Donatas Katkus
http://www.mediafire.com/?ezzkkbxji0d
(I hope the taunting worked and everyone will download this out of curiosity... ;D Looking forward to the discussion.)

Having posted that, I feel the need to atone myself. Here are 2 much better pieces.

1.
Joys of Spring (Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra/Gintaras Rinkevicius)
http://www.mediafire.com/?2gm7gxsmb1w
Not a masterpiece perhaps but certainly a piece where some sort of creative effort is clearly visible.

2.
And last of all, The Gates of Jerusalem. The CD release contains a much, much better performance than this live one (not to mention better sound) but this still does give an idea of the work, especially its general structure (the tripartite movements, the various changing geographical backgrounds):
http://www.mediafire.com/?9wy2drzdzdp
(the performers here are the same as in the Rudenio gerybes recording above - in fact both these recordings come from the same concert)

Offline Christo

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2008, 06:57:38 AM »
I herewith solemnly declare this "immensely popular thread" (according to Maciek d.d. December 30, 2008) alive again.  ;)

My connection with Bronius Kutavičius dates from the moment I met him in person, somewhere in 1995, when a few pieces were performed in Amsterdam in De IJsbreker and I made a small interview with him, together with a Lithuanian-speaking friend. A short one, because he was tired and probably depressed, and hardly approachable at that moment.

As I find some of Kutavičius "oratiorios", mentioned here before, of some real interest, I was alarmed to read that the highlight in the series, The Gates of Jerusalem, is actually available on cd. I missed it, though it was released by the Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre as long ago as 2001. Did you buy it in Vilnius during your visit, Maciek?

For many years, my main source was this cd with three "oratorios", namely The Last Pagan Rites, From the Jatvingian Stone, The Tree of Earth


… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2008, 07:04:18 AM »
I herewith solemnly declare this "immensely popular thread" (according to Maciek d.d. December 30, 2008) alive again.  ;)

My connection with Bronius Kutavičius dates from the moment I met him in person, somewhere in 1995, when a few pieces were performed in Amsterdam in De IJsbreker and I made a small interview with him, together with a Lithuanian-speaking friend. A short one, because he was tired and probably depressed, and hardly approachable at that moment.

As I find some of Kutavičius "oratiorios", mentioned here before, of some real interest, I was alarmed to read that the highlight in the series, The Gates of Jerusalem, is actually available on cd. I missed it, though it was released by the Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre as long ago as 2001. Did you buy it in Vilnius during your visit, Maciek?

For many years, my main source was this cd with three "oratorios", namely The Last Pagan Rites, From the Jatvingian Stone, The Tree of Earth




Since you have a fairly accurate understanding of my tastes in music, Johan.........would I like this music?

Offline Christo

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2008, 07:21:08 AM »
Since you have a fairly accurate understanding of my tastes in music, Johan.........would I like this music?

Sorry Colin, I really daren't say. My own interest stemmed from cultural reasons, not musical ones per se, as I was often visiting Lithuania in de 1990s and trying to take a dive into Lithuanian culture, music included. I think I can say I like From the Jatvingian Stone and also The Tree of Earth for their `originality' (using all kinds of non-musical instruments, sounds and inventions).  :)

I should really play them again in order to be able to compare them with other composers, as I don't see any obvious parallel at this moment. Maciek suggested some already, I think. His intentions appear to be a sort of early Postmodern Primitivism ànd a flirtation with "neo-Paganism" as a means to counter both Soviet Realism ànd the dominant Catholicism of Lithuanian `national' tradition.  ::)
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2008, 07:43:38 AM »
Thanks anyway :)

I should download some and see for myself :)

Offline Superhorn

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2008, 07:51:50 AM »
   I don't know any music by this composer, but I first heard about him a few years ago when I read a favorable review of Lokys at classicstoday.com by David Hurwitz. The opera certainly sounds intriguing, and I would definitely like to hear it.

Offline some guy

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2008, 11:45:47 AM »
Superhorn, do yourself a favor, then, and get Lokys right away. And all the rest, too, why not?

Otherwise, I really cringed at this comment: "Not a masterpiece perhaps but certainly a piece where some sort of creative effort is clearly visible." OUCH!! Maciek, I think from reading other posts of yours, that this sentence is not one of your masterpieces!!

But that's as may be. I'd rather talk about this comment, "I think there is a danger of oversimplifying things in his music..." Isn't that an inapposite criticism to level at minimalism? At a concert of Mažulis and Maciunas in Vilnius this past November, an anonymous composer commented that Rytis' music added nothing to what Reich had already done. That I would say, is an apposite criticism. I don't agree with it entirely, as I think the Lithuanians have given minimalism a distinctly Lithuanian flavor along with each of their individual flavors (no one would mistake Mažulis for Kutavičius or Kutavičius for Narbutaitė). But it is at least apposite, that's all!

Otherwise, don't you all think that to get a good sense of a composer, you should probably know as many pieces as possible, by that composer and by others, whether the pieces are "masterpieces" or not? I'd say that if all you knew of Beethoven were his fifth and ninth symphonies, his Grosse Fuge, and his opus 111, you wouldn't really know Beethoven (and wouldn't really have any way of gauging the merit--if that's what you're into--of the pieces you did know).

The Conjunto Iberico premiered a piece of Kutavičius in October (part of the Gaida/ISCM World Music Days festival), his Andata e ritorno. Wow. A remarkably rich piece for eight cellos--remarkably because it's as stripped down a piece as I've ever heard by Bronius, but rich nonetheless. (He's quite approachable, by the way. Although we had to converse in my little German and his even less! And he and Narbutaitė were visible all over town the whole time. That was fun.)

When the report on the festival goes up on the Asymmetry Music Magazine site (asymmetrymusicmagazine.com), I'll let you all know. Probably won't be for some months now. Depends on how quickly the backlog gets taken care of.

Offline Maciek

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2009, 09:17:41 AM »
Well, I see many interesting things in the music Kutavicius writes (and even think Gates of Jerusalem is a masterpiece, at least in the right performance) but his "primitivist" aesthetics are generally, well... a bit primitive. ::) At least for my taste. Not to mention the utter infantility of the whole Lithuanian neo-pagan movement.

I don't really see where Narbutaite fits into all this (apart from being his student). I haven't heard anything remotely minimalistic from her... Did I miss something?

(BTW, have you actually heard Rudenio gerybes? I personally think it's really, really bad. Like really bad.)

Offline some guy

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2009, 11:38:21 AM »
There's a certain superficial resemblance of one tiny bit of Rudenio gerybes to Carmina Burana. (I've only listened to the clip you provided--thanks for those Polish clips, too, by the way--which breaks off I don't know how close to the actual end of the piece.) I wouldn't say that it's a bad piece, certainly not really bad! I'm wondering now what it is you want from music. Criticizing minimalism for being minimal or primitivism for being primitive suggests that you simply don't like those modes. And your magisterial pronouncement that in Joys of Spring one can see some sort of creative effort.... Um, in an infant's first scrawls one can see some sort of creative effort. In a loaf of bread one can see some sort of creative effort. In any song by Britney Spears one can see some sort of creative effort. So of course one will see that in Joys of Spring. What else would you expect to see in something that was made?

My hope is that Kutavičius for you is something like Scelsi was once for me. I first heard his music back when I had pretty thoroughly assimilated the musics of the twentieth century, or so I thought (magisterially I'm sure!), and I found the music of Scelsi to be really appallingly bad.

I was wrong.

(And you're way ahead of me in this respect, for you at least can perceive a great deal of merit in some of Kutavičius' music. I'm here to suggest what a friend of mine suggested to me about Scelsi, that when you're ready for what it is, you might find that you like a lot more of it than you do now.)

As for Narbutaitė, I heard a long choral piece of hers at the Gaida festival which was minimal, consisting mainly of simple cells repeated with little variation. The cells are very long, so it's nothing like the repetition of Kutavičius, for instance, who uses fairly short cells, and who juxtaposes different cells in a way no other minimalist I know of does. I have heard other pieces of her which are not minimal in any way, though. This piece at the festival could easily have been anomalous.

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2009, 06:46:22 PM »
i have a cd of string quartets by:

kutavicius
balakauskas
rekasius
narbutaite
juzeliunas

(vilnius str qrt)

the kutavicius(1980) has a tape part which is mostly bells.  the strings work a build up (in a quasi in phase/out minimal way) around what sounds like an A7 riff, which turns into a bartokian like rough folk figure, which turns into strangely droopy intervallic trills, and proceeds to slow and die out.

the next two qrts were from 1970, ...mmmm....not my cup of tea, though wacky fun!

the narbutaite sounded like a modern arditti-like qrt,, very smooth with interesting sounds,  my favorite on this cd.

the last piece is a kantata for str qrt and soprano....sounded schoenbergian to me

all in all i got the same "feeling" i get when i listen to polish qrts from the same period...not a judgment, just a feeling.  does anyone else feel this similarity?

Offline Christo

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Re: Bronius Kutavicius
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2009, 04:46:12 AM »
Not to mention the utter infantility of the whole Lithuanian neo-pagan movement.

 ;) If the Lithuanian Romuva movement fails to impress you, perhaps the Latvian Dievturība  movement is more to your taste?  ;) 8)
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948