Universal Edition - Vykintas Baltakas – About the Music


Vykintas Baltakas

About the Music

Vykintas Baltakas is a composer, conductor, programmer and curator, also in the field of electronic music.

He actively participates in the programming of new music both in his capacity as a conductor and in cooperation with his ensemble the Lithuanian Ensemble Network.

Baltakas was born on 10 July 1972 in Vilnius/Lithuania. The date and place of his birth have played a decisive role in his life: he was born late enough to profit as a young man from the freedom and openness of his native country. If you look at his biography, you will be struck by his restless mobility. Mobile as far as his ceaseless activities are concerned even before leaving Vilnius to continue his studies in the West and mobile also in the sense that he has never stayed for long in whichever city he found a place to live. His restlessness stemmed no doubt from the desire to learn as much as possible, to absorb new impressions, to develop further and to try his hand at various activities (from artistic director to assistant, for instance of his erstwhile teacher of conducting, Péter Eötvös).

As a composer and also as a conductor, he has appeared all over Europe. Here is a list of the major venues: apart from Vilnius, Karlsruhe where he studied composition with Wolfgang Rihm and conducting with Andreas Weiss; Darmstadt where he has been a regular visitor of the Summer Courses, Paris, where he studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur and worked at IRCAM, Munich where his chamber opera was premiered and of course the Belgian town of Wilsele, where he lives with his family.

Folk music in Eastern Europe continues to be part of the population’s cultural consciousness. Pusline (1997/2000) for ensemble or Poussla (2002/2006) for ensemble and orchestra were inspired by a “Lithuanian instrument with an animal bladder for resonant body which makes a sharp sound” – as Baltakas puts it. He must have had the sonority of that folk instrument in his head when he set about composing those pieces but the music itself does not really betray where the composer comes from. Much rather, it says a great deal about the way he thinks about music and about his originality which impresses not only his listeners but also readers of his programme notes.

He writes about Poussla: “A field of energy which is present at every moment, ceaselessly revolving and offering new aural perspectives. A huge wheel.” On Pasaka/a Tale (1995/1997): “You tell a tale. For yourself, for somebody else … It’s immaterial. What counts is the wish to tell it. That you must! It is a tale!! … or … it is also a tale…”

Texts like that say a great deal about the composer: he wants his music to communicate, he wants to communicate with his listener, he wants to tell him something. This is an essential stance of an artist, in whatever field he may be active.

Years later he composed another work testifying to his inner need to communicate with his music. He wrote a programme note on his about to drink dense clouds (2003) for reciter, chamber ensemble and tape, which reads like a fairy tale. Once upon a time…

“There was a poem, an idea, a crumbling thought,
a crumbling thought from ancient times
crumbled so much that it is hardly an idea any more.

A fragment of an idea
A fragment by Simonides.”

After a quotation, he continues:

“And there is still an idea behind it! Perhaps even a poem.
Which was once there but now has to be found again.

That is what I am looking for. With my fantasy as my tool.
So that it speaks again.”

Yes, music but speak. One wishes the young man from a Lithuanian tale much luck and success in the great wide world, so that he can make instruments talk, using his imagination as a tool…

Baltakas Krönung WergoBaltakas' (co)ro(na) has been released on a CD by musikFabrik. Krönung (Coronation) is not about royalty, but about music that sends up shoots and blossoms like crowns. Available now on Wergo.

Josef Woodward wrote in the LA Times Culture Monster: "His (co)ro(na) is a picturesque study in tensions and texture, with instruments producing high, antic fluttering sounds about the grounding force of piano, percussion and long tones on horn. Some strange and sonic tone poetry is at hand, with the bracing sounds balanced by suspended clouds of harmony."