Professional Music in Lithuania

The professional music appeared in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as soon as the Christianity was adopted. Later, in the 16-17th century Vilnius was a very important center of culture and science not only in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but also in all Eastern Europe. Many musical activities like church choirs, orchestras, even Italian operas came into play then already. As the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a multinational country, the greatest part of the musicians and composers were invited from foreign countries, thus Lithuanians could meet the professional techniques and methodology of musical performance and creation.

In the 19th century rudiments of Lithuanian music traditions appeared when the famous artist, composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911) as an exception among old fashioned artists evidenced in Lithuanian art history. Nowadays the artist is considered to be the former of traditional Lithuanian modern music, his works like symphonic poems “Sea” and “In the Forest” delight listeners till nowadays. The genius of Čiurlionis manifested in his creation as he used his own inside music techniques in painting and vise versa.

During the Independence of Lithuania (1918-1940) most composers created in a late romanticism style using some elements of Lithuanian national folklore music. The leader of that generation of creators was Juozas Gruodis (1884-1948), also one of the most important figures in Lithuanian music history. In fact, the most famous composers of the 20th century were his pupils. In addition to this, the composer J. Gruodis was the first musician in Lithuanian history who revealed the unique tune of Lithuanian glees and started implementing themes of glees into Lithuanian musical world. However, as soon as soviets occupied Lithuania, the spread of development of Lithuanian professional music was stopped. Music as well as the whole cultural and casual life was ruled by soviet government under strict control of censor. Despite that, contacts with the western culture did not discontinued as Lithuanian composers positively participated in Polish music festivals. That was the only one entrance to the West for them. The vivid modernization of music in Lithuania started in the 7th decade, in the 8th decade the individual styles of creation appeared, new tendencies of minimalism and simplicity were discovered. The 9th decade was the time for new generation of composers. Then the machine, sharp, even aggressive sounds appeared in the music of Lithuanian authors. More modern, more free, more unexpected ways of creation appeared in natural stimulus of mediating life.

A few of the most important historical figures in Lithuanian music history are:
• Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, composer
• Juozas Gruodis, composer
• Balys Dvarionas, composer