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Vykintas Baltakas:



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Vykintas Baltakas is a musical Scheherazade. His music keeps pulling you in and referencing itself, sometimes branching off and reinventing itself, and sometimes returning to where it started. He weaves musical stories that are linked with a delicate interconnected web.

The story starts in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1972 where Baltakas was born. In 1993 he moved to Karlsruhe, Germany, where he studied composition with Wolfgang Rihm and conducting with Andreas Weiss. From 1994 to 1997 he also worked with Peter Eötvös at the Music Academy in Karlsruhe and at the Hungarian composer’s International Institute.
Also an accomplished conductor, Baltakas has conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Ensemble Modern, and Klangforum Wien.

It was his physical move to Germany that accompanied a rebellion or break from his Lithuanian heritage. As in most eastern European countries, folk art and culture are often intertwined into composer’s music and aesthetics. He felt that Lithuanian music was missing impertinence. This physical and aesthetic break mixed with a modernist harmonic language, demanding virtuosity, and a healthy dose of impertinence was the result. In Sinfonia (1996), for chamber ensemble, the germ is a simple melody that becomes a swirl of transformation, a dance whirling the elements around, ready to explode, like seeds from a sun-dried pod. This sardonic composition mocks the glorification of ethno music in Lithuanian music tradition. His new story continued with Pasaka (Fairy Tale) that has the pianist performing and simultaneously narrating the Indian mythological version of the creation of the world. It is a serious story, but his version is full of absurdity and irony. It was performed and awarded a prize in 1996 at the Darmstadt Summer Courses.

His view of musical composition and conducting is one of reciprocity. He says that both as a composer or conductor “you can influence it, suggest ideas, give it direction, make decisions. You give impulses but you also receive impulses back from the music that you then process again and which then reflects back.”

This reciprocity creates a lineage between his works. In 2004 he started this genealogical expansion with a cycle of works. The first was Ouroboros for ensemble. A sonic object from this work germinated the next, a bright scherzo, (co)ro(na) for small ensemble. From Ouroboros, he took the fermata in measure 313 and used that as the sonic object as the seed. The title is a little misleading in that we may mistakenly think of a fermata (or corona) as just a pause, but fermatas are full of energy at multiple levels, almost like watching a hummingbird hovering in the distance – they seem almost motionless but the energy and actual motion beneath that cool surface is tremendous. Such is the case with (co)ro(na), with energetic quivering elegantly levitating the music.

Into this genealogical sound lineage Ri likewise was pollinated from RiRo for soprano and trumpet. Ri has continued and further propagated two additional works, Redditio and Redditio 2. Ri, for the soprano and electronics, focuses on the voice and extends it by electronic means. The utterances are phonetics, the common basis for all languages. They create shadows and echos that vibrate in their own web of universal dialogue.

Another dialogue emerges in Saxordionphonics for accordion, saxophone and orchestra. The interchange bounces between the soloists’ conversation as the orchestra reinforces their wordsor musical motives and gestures and creates a vibrant aural shadow play that changes and shifts just as the sun’s light changes strength and length during the day. The conversation and shadows evaporate enticingly just as another day must pass as we await another tale from Scheherezade.

The seeds from cross pollination continue not only between pieces but also in his creation of new works creating re-interpretations to generate successive stages of a work. Such is the case with the string quartet b(ell tree) written for the Arditti Quartet. The work started out as an electronic piece with the sound object being almglocken. The electronic sounds were then re-interpreted for string quartet.

Composers are continually concerned with psycho-acoustics and attempting to confound the perception of time, and Baltakas acknowledges that you cannot get rid of temporality. However, he does believe that you can try to unravel the linearity of it. And yet again, we go back to a story. This time, Baltakas mentions the influence of Gogol’s Viy, the story of a young man’s attempt to escape from a witch and being continually brought back to her. This idea of not actually getting anywhere is an attempt at unraveling linearity. It is the premise behind Stravinsky’s mosaic form, Stockhausen’s moment form and the seed with which Baltakas started with for his commission for WDR Radio in Cologne while working in Paris and at IRCAM. The subsequent work is Poussla, for orchestra and ensemble, in which he envisioned the music as simultaneous watch mechanisms: the orchestra and ensemble as the larger and smaller mechanisms respectively – with cogs moving back and forth but not going anywhere, much like in Gogol’s story.

His attention to time also deals with prolongation. In his musical theatre work, Cantio, written for the 2004 Munich Biennale, Baltakas uses layers and interconnections to prolong the narrative and music. In this piece, much like Scheherzade weaving her stories, the main character sings a continuous song in an attempt to delay the departing gods. The song progressively becomes longer and longer, and once she realises the gods are leaving forever, her song becomes infinite.
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education [+]
National M.K.Čiurlionis School of Art (LT): music theory and choir conducting; composition with Bronius Kutavičius
Vilnius Music Academy (LT): composition with Vytautas Barkauskas, conducting with Lionginas Abarius
Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe (DE): composition with Wolfgang Rihm, conducting with Andreas Weiss
Master classes: 1993-96
Ferienkurse für neue Musik, Darmstadt (DE), Intern. Bartok-seminar (1994-95) in Szombathely (HUN), Centre Acanthes, Avignon (FRA), Kondrashin Masterclass (1996), Arbeitstagung des Institutes für neue Musik in Darmstadt (1994-95)
Conservatoir National Supèrieur, Paris (FR): composition with Emmanuel Nunes
IRCAM, Paris (FR): annual course in composition and computer music
Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BE)
prizes [+]
Second Prize at the Youth Conductors’ Competition in Kaunas (LT)
Prize at the conductors’ course Extreme in Mürzzuschlag (AT)
Scholarship from the Heinrich Strobel Foundation for composition in Freiburg (DE)
Stipendiumpreis of the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music for Pasaka (DE)
Scholarship from the Herrenhaus Edenkoben for composition (proposition of Peter Eötvös) (DE)
2000 & 2002
Scholarship from the Fondation Internationale Nadia et Lili Boulanger for Composition in Paris
Composition Prize for Pasaka for piano and tape at the Concours International de Piano XXème siècle d’Orléans
Second Prize at the Bad-Homburger Conductors’ Competition (DE)
International Composition Prize Claudio Abbado
Award "Best Lithuanian Music-theater piece in 2004" for Cantio
Ernst von Siemens Grants-in-aid Prize
activities and performances [+]
Founder (together with Rita Balta) and conductor of the vocal ensemble Penki vejai, as well as the chamber choir Aidija in Vilnius (LT)
Participant at the Festival d‘Avignon
Coaching the song / opera repertoire (Korrepetition) at the Oper-school in Karlsruhe (DE)
Assistant to Peter Eötvös at the Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe for G.Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, A.Webern, A.Stahl, U.Kremp, etc.
Music Director and Conductor of L‘Ensemble du nouveau Siècle in Strasbourg (FRA)
Music Director of Am Himmel wandere ich... by K.Stockhausen at the Schloss Rheinsberg (guest performances at the Mecklenburg Vorpommern Festival, the Leipzig Opera, the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival) [Youtube]
Assistant (subconductor) to Peter Eötvös with the WDR Orchestra and the Choir Cologne: world première of Dieter Schnebel's Ekstasis
Concerts at the Bonn Opera, Musica Strasbourg and Wien Modern
Concerts with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra at the Vilnius Philharmonic Hall
Music Director of the Voix[time] - project at the Darmstadt Summer Courses with Ensemble Modern
Composer and conductor at the Landmarks 99 in Duisburg
Performances at ZKM Karlsruhe, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Cité de la Musique in Paris and Ars Musica in Brussels
Portrait concert at the Gasteig Munich (Klangspuren), première of anderes Lied; double at the Munich Biennale
Unvollendete at the Institut für Neue Musik und Musikerziehung Darmstadt
KlangArtFestival Osnabrück with MusikFabrik
Pasaka at the St. Germain des Prés in Paris and the Clark Studio Theater / Lincoln Center Plaza, New York
World première of Poussla (first edition) for ensemble and orchestra, commissioned by WDR Köln
RiRo and anderes Lied; double at the Paradiso in Amsterdam
das Lied at the Ojai Festival, Los Angeles (US)
World première of about to drink dense clouds for voice, chamber ensemble and tape (Klangforum Wien, c. Vykintas Baltakas), commissioned by the Vienna Festival and Klangforum Wien
Associate conductor of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Hoch-zeiten (première) at the Philharmonie Cologne with the WDR Orchestra (cond. Z.Nagy) and Choir (cond. R.Huber)
RiRo with the London Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
About to drink dense clouds with Ensemble InterContemporain at the Centre Pompidou, Paris
Conducting the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin at the Maerz Musik Festival in Berlin
World première of the music theatre Cantio (c. Christoph Poppen, Münchener Kammerorchester, Regie: Osvaldas Korsunovas), commissioned by the Münchener Biennale; further performances at the Gaida Festival in Vilnius (c. Vykintas Baltakas)
World première of Ouroboros for ensemble, commissioned by Klangspuren Schwaz (Gaida Ensemble, c. Vykintas Baltakas)
Conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks at the Musica Viva, Munich
Poussla for ensemble and orchestra at the Venice Biennale
World première of (co)ro(na) for ensemble in Hamburg (NDR SO, c. Vykintas Baltakas);
World première of Ouroboros - Zyklus I for soprano, ensemble and tape, commissioned by the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik (Klangforum Wien, c. Johannes Kalitzke)
Conducting Stravinsky's chamber opera Mavra at the Gaida Festival Vilnius (LT); cooperation with the Oskaras Koršunovas Theater
World première of Poussla (second edition) for ensemble and orchestra, commissioned by the Berliner Festspiele - MaerzMusik (SWR-SO Baden-Baden und Freiburg, c. Sylvain Cambreling)
Ouroboros at the Warsaw Autumn Festival (PL) and at the ISCM World Music Festival Stuttgart
Performances of (how does the silver cloud s)ou(nd?) at the Casa da Música, Porto (PORT) and the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris; Pasaka at the Festival Musica, Strasbourg (FR)
World première of the string quartet b(ell tree), commissioned by Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik (Arditti String Quartet)
(co)ro(na) with Tokyo Sinfonietta at the Festival "Music in Current - Chamber Music", Tokyo (JP)
Performances at Ultraschall Festival, Berlin (DE), Wien Modern (AT), Gasteig München (DE), Ultima Festival Oslo (NO), Valencia (ES)
World première of the vocal work Instruktionen zur Durchführung einer alten Liebesbeschwörung, die Ihre/Ihren Geliebte(n) auf einmal und für immer an Sie binden wird for the Neue Vocalsolisten at the ECLAT Festival Stuttgart (DE)
(co)ro(na) with MusikFabrik in Brussels / Ars Musica Festival (BE)
Lecturer (composition) at the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music
Poussla for ensemble and orchestra at the ISCM World Music Days in Vilnius with Peter Eötvös (cond.) and the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra; at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for Contemporary Music with Johannes Kalitzke (cond.) and the SWR-SO Baden-Baden and Freiburg
World première of the ensemble work Lift to Dubai for Ensemble Modern
foundation of the Lithuanian Ensemble Network
CD release with RiRo by Ensemble Modern Media with Sava Stoianov and Rita Balta (EMCD-008)
World première of Scoria for orchestra by the SO des Bayerischen Rundfunks, c. Lucas Vis, Musica Viva Munich
World première of Redditio for ensemble, c. Vykintas Baltakas in the Transit Festival, Leuven (BE)
Performances of (co)ro(na) for ensemble at the Walt Disney Concert Hall / Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group (US) and at the Festival des Boréales with L'Ensemble de Basse-Normandie (FR)
CD release with (co)ro(na) by WERGO / edition musikFabrik (WER 68552)
World première of Commentum for cello and piano, commissioned by the "Vilnius Festival" / National Philharmonic Hall (LT), premièred by David Geringas and Ian Fountain
1st US performance of b(ell tree) by the JACK Quartet in New York / "Sounds of a New Century" Festival (US)
Conducting the Het Collectief ensemble at the Ars Musica, Brussel
Portrait-concert in Vilnius, Festival Sugrįžimai
New Production of Cantio (music theater) at the Ultraschall Festival Berlin.
Cornelia Heger (stage dir.), Vivian Lüdorf (speaker), Margret Giglinger (sopr.), Florian Feth (tenor), Tobias Hagge (bass), Fred Pommerehn (stage design), Lithuanian Ensemble Network, V.Baltakas (cond.)
French première of Lift to Dubai for ensemble and electronics by ensemble 2e2m
World première of Saxordionphonics for saxophone, accordion and orchestra, commissioned by the WDR at the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik (DE).
Marcus Weiss (sax), Teodoro Anzellotti (acc), WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Emilio Pomàrico (cond.)
World première of Eselsbrücke for ensemble at the Salzburger Festspiele.
Scharoun Ensemble der Berliner Philharmoniker, Matthias Pintscher (cond.)
Conducting the Lithuanian Ensemble Network in Vilnius: portraits of Luciano Berio and Lithuanian Retro-Flective project
World première of Eine kleine Nachtmusik for solo violin at the Transit Festival (BE).
Wibert Aerts (vno)
Performance of (co)ro(na) for ensemble at the Milano Musica.
Oslo Sinfonietta, Christian Eggen (cond.)
CD release: music of Bram Van Camp with Het Collektief ensemble.
Liesbeth Devos (sopr.), Vykintas Baltakas (cond.)
Saxordionphonics at the Lviv Philharmonic / International Contemporary Music Festival “Contrasts”, Ukraine.
Roman Yusypey (acc.), Dieter Kraus (sax.), INSO-Lviv orchestra, Stanislav Velyanyk (cond.)
Pasaka for piano and electronics in Lugano and Vilnius
Conducting the Hermes ensemble Antwerp
Premiere of Redditio 2 for woodwind quintet at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Cataleya Quintet
Conducting: Hermes Ensemble (Antwerp), EECMS Ensemble (Kairo), Christopher Chamber Orchestra and L’ENsemble (Vilnius)
Conference on "Contemporary Composition" at the University of Haifa (IS)
Pasaka for piano and electronics in Brussels (BE), Nice (FR), Karlsruhe (DE) and Los Angeles (US)
Lift to Dubai for ensemble and electronics at the Budapest Autumn Festival / Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation
Eine kleine Nachtmusik in Antwerp (BE), Sapporo (JP), Vilnius (LT), Pallma de Mallorca (ES)
Release of CD recording of b(ell tree) by the Chordos Quartet
“Horizons” - a retrospective CD by LEN (Lithuanian Ensemble Network) including new recordings of Eine kleine Nachtmusik and Nichtstück
CD-Release of Cantio (opera / music theater). Recording from the Ultraschall Festival Berlin 2013.
Recitativo for violin and piano: commissioned by the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium for the semi-final of the 2015
Smokey Arnold (fl, cl, pro, von, vc) commissioned by the het Collectief and premiered at the Transit Festival (BE)
Music of Falling Sounds for violin and electronics: commissioned by the Concertgebouw Brugge and Centre Henri Pousseur Liège (BE)
Professor for composition at the conservatory in Maastricht and guest Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.
Performances at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek (NL), Transit festival (BE), 24th International Review of Composers in Belgrade (RS), Melos-Ethos International Contemporary Music Festival Bratislava (SK), Gaida Festival (LT)
Curating and conducting the Mauricio Kagel concert trail at the Concertgebouw Brugge (BE) and Vilnius (LT). A cooperation between LENsemble, Het Collectief, Jauna Muzika choir and Oskaras Koršunovas.
Lecture and seminar at the Royal Academy of Music London
Participation at the Cairo Contemporary Music Days
Head of the master program for performance of contemporary music at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (starting in September 2016)
Pedagogical activities [+]
Docent at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt (Darmstadt new music summer courses)
Lecturer at the Matrix Academy of SWR (Freiburg)
Lecturer at the University of Haifa (IS)
from 2015
Professor for composition at the conservatory in Maastricht and guest Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels
from 2016
Head of the master program for performance of contemporary music at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre.
cooperation [+]
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchesters Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg, WDR-Sinfonieorchester Köln, Münchener Kammerorchester, Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Christopher Chamber Orchestra, etc.
Ensemble Modern Frankfurt, Klangforum Wien, London Sinfonietta, MusikFabrik NRW, Scharoun Ensemble Berlin , ICTUS, Arditti quartet, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgar, Ensemble Resonanz Hamburg, Gaida Ensemble Vilnius, L’ENsemble (Lthuanian Ensemble Network), Remix Ensemble Porto, Champ d'Action Antwerp, Het Collectief, Hermes Ensemble, EECMS ensemble Cairo, etc.