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2014

  • Dirigentas Petras Bingelis-ebfd09072ebdc6c16e87f79328bcd2bb.jpg

    PETRAS BINGELIS. 45 YEARS OF SINGING

    2014.10.09

    On the eve of anniversary musicologist Alina RAMANAUSKIENĖ interviews founder and leader of Kaunas State Choir, laureate of Lithuanian National Prize of Culture and Art Petras BINGELIS.

    In your opinion, when did Kaunas State Choir reach its’ pride?


    It did not, yet. We are still seeking… Speaking seriously, artistic level is a floating matter. There are floods and there are low tides. It is impossible for the choir to reach the highest level during every concert. Human voices are live and inestimable instruments, you cannot buy new ones anywhere. This is why choirmaster’s profession is very complicated – one has to be very careful and cautious with treasures, spare them. On the other hand, it is impossible to keep them hidden in the strongbox all the time.


    Recall, please, the firs concerts of the choir


    The first concert took place in Šakiai. It was a beautiful and sunny autumn. Just 25 singers comprised the choir at that time and mostly a cappella pieces were in our programme. Soon we were singing in Vilnius Philharmonic and received favourable opinions. Ponderable and very important opinion in the press was expressed by the most prominent choirmasters of that time: Konradas Kaveckas and Hermanas Perelšteinas. Since then I started thinking that Kaunas State Choir must be different from the other singing collectives. I was eager to perform large-scale vocal-instrumental pieces. We succeeded to bring this idea into life in 1971 – then “Requiem” by W. A. Mozart was performed for the first time.
     

    The choir has sung this Requiem Mass numerous times. Could you, please, recall the most impressive interpretation of the last score written by W. A. Mozart?


    There were numerous mature and beautiful performances of this score. The most momentous was the saddest one. In 1991, just after the tragic January events, this score was performed to honour the memory of heroes who made the supreme sacrifice for the Independence. Requiem Mass was performed in Vilnius Sport Palace. The mood of choir singers, faces of the people who came to say farewell to the casualties and unearthly purity of the piece merged into indivisible whole. I did not have an opportunity to hear the more inspired performance of W. A. Mozart’s score ever again.


    It is difficult to indicate the most significant from 150 large-scale vocal-instrumental pieces. Try to do it…

     

    To the “Requiem” by W. A. Mozart I would necessarily add “Mass in B minor” by J. S. Bach, “Missa solemnis” by L. van Beethoven, “Messiah” by G. F. Handel. From the Romantic repertoire – “Requiem” by G. Verdi, “Liturgy” by S. Rachmaninov, vocal symphonies by G. Mahler (Symphony No. 8 being the most important). In my opinion, these are musical culminations, masterpieces, untimely values.


    Oratorio “Messiah” by G. F. Handel has been performed by the choir 80 times all-over the globe. Numerous times under the baton of late lord Yehudi Menuhin. After performance of “Requiem” by G. Verdi the choir gained recognition in the Soviet Union. When this score was performed in the hall of P. Tchaikovsky’s Conservatoire in Moscow, local press wrote that in 1974, when “Requiem Mass” by G. Verdi was performed by Milan’s “La Scala” opera theatre choir, the impression was lesser comparing to the performance of Kaunas choir. These words for us were like a balsam with honey. When a huge concert hall was opened in Rome in 2004 we were singing “Symphony No. 8” “(“Symphony of a Thousand”) by G. Mahler. During dress rehearsal conductor - Myung-Whun Chung and the whole “La Scala” theatre choir were applauding for the singers of our choir. This is only a pinch of impressions but they are indelible and will accompany all the time that is intended for us.


    And what are, in your opinion, the fundamental scores of Lithuanian music authors? Cantatas? Oratories? Eventually – songs?


    They are numerous. I will mark the most distinctive ones. Unambiguously – Bronius Kutavičius’ music. His oratories are masterpieces, shot with mythological spirit, mystery and magic. Choral ballads by Algimantas Bražinskas are superb. Unsurpassable are songs by Julius Juzeliūnas on lyrics by Salomėja Nėris. A lot of interesting things can be found in vocal-instrumental oeuvre of Eduardas Balsys.

    You haven’t mentioned any of nowadays young authors. Do you see the signals of decline of the high choral art? Aren’t we overmuch engaged in chase of quantity? It is usual to cover under various projects, true and supposed anniversaries, actions though traces of art there can be hardly found…

    We’ve been going downhill not for a year or two. Sometimes it seems that we’ve already touched the bottom. But perhaps there still are ways to go downhill. Clever-clevers seeking for profit, vainglory, entrenchment of one’s position shrewdly find them… I often have opportunities to visit towns all-over Lithuania. I do visit local churches. Have you ever heard how purportedly contemporary music is performed in the sanctuaries? It gives the shudders when you hear “Sanctus” sung in the rhythm of the waltz, accompanied by guitars. It is sung and played haphazardly. And everybody seems contented. This is only one example but there are dozens of them…

    For example, Japanese composer comes to me and introduces the score we should perform in Kaunas to honour the former Japanese diplomat. Looking at the sheet-music I cannot believe my own eyes – soprano part is written lower than the bass part. I propose to adjust the score. After two months he returned and showed his piece once again. No adjustments were done. He tried to prove that nowadays it is possible to write in this way. Thanks God I have right to reject the piece I do not like and I did it. When I heard this piece performed in the theatre I did not regret. Pity, but such curiosities occur to the composers of national music as well.

    Signals of decline for sure are not heard when Kaunas choir is singing. An impeccably prepared programme “Yes, Donelaitis!” (together with actor Dainius Svobonas) has been heard by almost entire Lithuania during this year. You have raise from lethargy choral scores of Vladas Jakubėnas. Which other scores would you distinguish?

    In the beginning of this year we have performed three pieces by L. van Beethoven: final part of the Symphony No. 9, “Missa solemnis” and oratorio “Christ in the Mount of Olives”. We’ve been working our fingers to the bone rehearsing “Requiem” by G. Verdi for the final concert of the 19th Pažaislis Music Festival. It is a pity that our thorough work and efforts were literally speaking ruined by the rain.

    At this point we naturally came close to a very burning issue regarding concert halls of our country and their state. The situation in this field is almost hopeless.

    I shouldn’t say hopeless but deplorable, indeed. There is no concert hall in Lithuania where classical music could be performed. I will not speak about spaces in other cities but would like to talk about Kaunas. What does the situation in our city look like? Hall of the Philharmonic is a pocket unsuited for the concerts. Hall of the State Theatre maybe satisfied the needs of the beginning of the 20th century public but now it is obviously too small. Soon we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Lithuania’s Independence. Arenas were built in various cities. Has anybody calculated how much does it cost to maintain them? Dozens of millions. And the result? Concerts of classical music, musical or ballet spectacles cannot take place here.

    We’ve been speaking about the necessity of a new concert hall for long years. We are considering, arguing but the work – not a stir. The Estonians are behaving more prudent, they are investing into their culture. We are just blabbering. What’s the point of this?

    Don’t your sources of energy exhaust working with the same collective for 45 years? Don’t you feel sick and tired one from the others?

    I won’t pretend – such moments occur. But Kaunas choir singers are very dear to me. All of them.

    Everyone has limits of his own potential. I am not an exception in this sense. I am feeling perfectly that years are not “playing” in my behalf but I am trying to fulfil my duties as sincerely as it is possible. To every rehearsal I am coming prepared, knowing tasks and aims. I am still looking for the more beautiful sound of singing, more intense colours, more flexible phrasing. I am the conservator of classical values. I do not approve the choir singing sotto voce or falsetto. To sing piano in correct, back-up voice is a real excellence, just the same like to obtain an absolutely unanimous sound of 71 voices.

    After intensive rehearsals you most often pass the “product” of the enormous work to another conductor and the major part of concerts where Kaunas choir singers are taking part observe from aside. Is it easy to be an observer of the highest qualification?

    It is very interesting because every conductor one or another score interprets differently. I am always curious how choir singers are able to answer new ideas, how they are mobilizing attention and get accommodated to slightly different tempo of music. But the basis – singing run-in, vocal skills, ability of hearing one another, concentration remain unaltered despite the interpretation. These are our tasks and we are trying to realize them the best possible.

    You have started leading Kaunas State choir being 25 years old. How did you feel at the side of senior colleagues?

    I think the then minister of culture Lionginas Šepetys was right to appoint a young man to organize and lead a new and big collective – Kaunas choir. I was a zealot of choral music, possessed energy, ambitions and willpower. Every morning, day, evening and often even at night you could meet me in the Philharmonic. I was working very hard willing to bring my ideas into life in a short time.

    Choir singers were voiceful people then but majority not prepared technically to perform more complicated music scores. I had to teach them a lot of things. I am grateful to the fate for having worked for 40 years together with a wonderful colleague – conductor Algimantas Mišeikis to whom I am grateful from the deep of my heart. Being a conductor is a mission of Algimantas. He is a conductor to the bone marrow and in addition his erudition, knowledge in choral literature, developed skills of piano playing. He has taught me a lot of things. Algimantas’ patriotism was catching. I remember him in gloomy Soviet times insisting to necessarily sing the lyrics by Maironis “The Highest God, save that beloved country” in the song by Česlovas Sasnauskas. We were risking but we did sing.

    Till the restoration of Lithuania’s Independence composition of the choir has been altering a lot. Singers were coming and leaving. Were not able, could not survive tension, accustom to strange and unattractive schedule according to which you do not have free days, concerts are late in the evening, holidays are spent in concert halls meanwhile salaries are deplorable (until now they almost the same). People could not endure it. It would be possible to comprise six collectives from the singers who left the choir.

    What would you like to wish for the strongest, most persevering, best singers of your choir on the eve of anniversary?

    Good health and success and in their professional activity – concentration, cohesion, listening one to another. Let’s not detract and depreciate. Let’s retain respect to the song and to our profession.

     

    Nemunas. No 33-34

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  • Kaunas state choir ww.kvch.lt-59b666198c593293378f7bd53ae7caba.jpg

    TEXTS BY K. DONELAITIS IN THE PROGRAMME SOUND LIKE A SERMON

    2014.03.18

    Kaunas State Choir and actor Dainius Svobonas prepared a programme that integrates the texts by Kristijonas Donelaitis, old music and pieces of contemporary composers. According to the organizer of the programme – Kaunas State Philharmonic, integrating poetry and song performed by the choir, performers using a music language try to read aloud poem "The Year" (Metai) by K. Donelaitis that is included into the library of the masterpieces of European literature.
     
    The aim of the new programme is as well a warm and not pompous commemoration of K. Donelaitis’ birth anniversary. Texts by K. Donelaitis cited in the programme sound like a sermon accompanied by the insertions of the Lithuanian choral music and Lutheran liturgical anthems.
     
    "When reading the creation of K. Donelaitis you can see from the eyes of the public that they understand what you are speaking about. This was the main task", - claimed actor D. Svobonas.
     
    According to him, at first it was difficult for him to read K. Donelaitis’ texts. Later he managed to find a key – purportedly in all his texts K. Donelaitis beautifully relates by using views and when you try to imagine it, it is easier to convey it to the listener.
     
    Leader of Kaunas State Choir – Petras Bingelis told that songs for the concert where chosen trying to reveal the period literature classic lived.
     
    "We have included some liturgical anthems of those times that are uncomplicated and just embraced the project dedicated to K. Donelaitis. They are so natural and easy to understand, the text is very clear", - spoke conductor of Kaunas State Choir - Professor Petras Bingelis.
     
    The first concert took place in Vilnius, in the Palace of Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Kaunas musicians will visit other cities and towns of Lithuania and perform this programme. Next week special educational presentations of the project will take place in the gymnasiums of Kaunas city.
     
    lrt.lt  info
    Monika Petrulienė, Loreta Marčiulienė
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  • Naujalis www.kvch.lt-b371ebfc7ecf01c08a8386443221aaeb.jpg

    ENIGMAS OF COMPOSER JUOZAS NAUJALIS

    2014.03.08

    Compositions by Juozas Naujalis often can be heard in the repertoire of Kaunas State Choir. However few know that art director of the choir -Petras Bingelis enshrines the baton he was handed in thirty years ago by the composer’s daughter - Zofija Naujelytė.

    J. Naujalis is an extraordinary figure in the music culture of Lithuania. According to the composer Stasys Šimkus, the real active musical movement in Lithuania stars with Juozas Naujalis.
     
    The cathedral’s choir in pre-war Kaunas led by him was perhaps the biggest music collective not only in the provisional capital but in the whole Lithuania. Therefore there is no doubt that handing of composer’s baton to the conductor P. Bingelis is an important assessment of the choir. It is as well an expression of the anticipation that this collective will cherish and promote the creative heritage of J. Naujalis. The more especially as to present her father’s baton Z. Naujalytė decided after a long consideration.
     
    Symbol of the conductor’s power
     
    "Perhaps she did not intend the baton to lay gummed up and having lost its’ breath in the museum. On January 17th, 1982, after the concert in Vilnius Arch-cathedral was over, composer’s daughter approached and told she no longer has doubts whom she should present the baton because what she has heard is true and in her opinion J. Naujalis himself would be glad to hear such interpretations. And what is the most important that in her heart she felt that the choir will continue her father’s music traditions", - shared his thoughts P. Bingelis.
     
    The choir member Rimantas Klevečka considers that Kaunas State Choir led by professor P. Bingelis continues worthy the traditions of choral music cherished in Kaunas since old times.
     
    "The baton is a symbol of the conductor’s power, like a scepter in the hands of a sovereign: motion of the conductor, having a baton in his hands, makes the choir and the orchestra to submit instantaneously", - told R. Klevečka.
     
    Country of origin: Germany?
     
    A real reliquia of Lithuania’s music history – J. Naujalis’ baton with composer’s initials written in gold asks several riddles. It is not known neither when nor on what occasion J. Naujalis acquired it. And what is more it is even not ascertained a silhouette of which famous composer adorns this elaborate baton.
     
    The first probable assumption is that it is a silhouette of a famous German composer – Richard Wagner. The more especially that in the time J. Naujalis lived the music of this creator of the romantic opera was extremely popular; operas of this composer were included in the repertoire of numerous theatres all over Europe.
     
    In 1894 J. Naujalis perfected his knowledge in the field of the church music in the High School of Church Music in Regensburg (Germany). Thus it is quite possible that the country of baton’s origin is Germany.

    A careful regard is necessary

    The second and perhaps the more precise surmise is related to the at that time very intense influence of the Polish culture: a very elaborate (this is as well important) baton is decorated with the silhouette of a famous 19th century Polish composer and conductor Stanislaw Moniuszko, one of the most prominent creators of the Polish romantic music and national opera who had lived in Vilnius for eighteen years where he worked as an organist in St. Johns’ church, conducted the orchestra of Vilnius city theatre and wrote his famous opera "Halka". J. Naujalis studies in the Music Institute in Warsaw where since 1864 as well worked the above mentioned composer.
     
    And what is more in the competition in honour of S. Moniuszko J. Naujalis has been awarded the first prize. Thus it is quite possible that the baton (probably adorned by the silhouette of S. Moniuszko) is a memento received after winning the first place in the competition.

    These are, of course, only assumptions and not the answers. A precious reliquia of the Lithuanian music history preserved by maestro P. Bingelis needs a careful regard and a comprehensive investigation that should be initiated not waiting for special occasions. Moreover that this year the 90th anniversary of the first Song Festival that took place in 1924 (J. Naujalis was the organizer and chief conductor) is celebrated.
     
    Enrika Striogaitė
    Laikinoji sostinė (Lietuvos Rytas)
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  • get85cf-fdffadf83328ac523c46499afab01e09.jpg

    CHOIR'S REPERTOIRE – EXCLUSIVE CLASSICAL MUSIC MASTERPIECES

    2014.02.06

    There is probably no such a person in Lithuania who does not know Kaunas State Choir, has not heard its singing or seen the founder and chief conductor of this collective – Petras Bingelis. In the musical landscape of Lithuania the choir seems to exist unconsciously: without tensions, exaggerated and noisy announcements. Such a sublime existence like singing itself testifies – participating of this choir in the process of music life of Lithuania and even Europe is natural and necessary.


    Often the renown of the choir echoes from afar: famous international festivals, great concert halls, palaces and castles of foreign countries. Nevertheless those who are eager to hear choir’s singing here, in Lithuania as well have a lot of occasions. The choir sings in the concert halls and churches of our country, in summer time as well in Pazaislis and other music festivals of Lithuania.

     

    This year celebrating its 45th anniversary the choir enters the age of maturity and wisdom with significant pieces, the most important being the manuscripts of Ludwig van Beethoven.

     

    On the 12th of January in the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Lithuania (LNOBT) Kaunas State and National Opera and Ballet Theatre Choirs, soloists and orchestra under the baton of Juozas Domarkas performed "Missa solemnis" by the last of the Viennese classics. This piece consisting of five parts and distinguishing by complicated choral parties the composer himself considered as the most important, complicated and innovatory piece in his oeuvre.

     

    Conductor P. Bingelis as well considers "Missa solemnis" as one of the most significant pieces in the choir’s activity: "Few particular pieces had the essential impact on the choir’s maturity and harmony: "Requiem" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, "Christmas oratorio" and "Mass in B minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach and "Missa solemnis" by L. van Beethoven. Those pieces had been prepared by the choir yet during the Soviet period when the immutable meaning of the Mass was considered to be a survival of religious ideology. We were very careful and discreet those days and first of all performed these pieces in the hall of Piotr Tchaykovsky’s conservatoire in Moscow. As local music critics and journalists did not stint compliments regarding the interpretation those pieces shortly were performed in Lithuania. Here nobody could reproach: the performance was positively met in Moscow!"

     

    On the 30th of January in the Congress Palace in Vilnius during the concert dedicated to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lithuanian State Symphonic Orchestra the choir together with soloists Irena Bespalovaitė (soprano), Jovita Vaškevičiūte (mezzo-soprano), Edgaras Montvidas (tenor), Michail Kazakov (bass) under the baton of Gintaras Rinkevičius performed the final part of the 9th symphony.

     

    The 9th symphony is a score that has an exclusive place in the history of the choir. The choir has performed it under the baton of such conductors as Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich , Justus Franz.

     

    Perhaps the most momentous performance of the 9th symphony took place in the "Am Gendarmenmarkt" concert hall in Berlin on the 12th of January, 2003 when Kaunas State Choir took part in the solemn concert held on the occasion of UNESCO decision to include the manuscript of the symphony into the list of World documents heritage ("Memory of the World"). On this prominent occasion the choir performed together with the Philharmonic of Nations Orchestra under the baton of J. Frantz. Later he acknowledged: "I have always had warm feelings towards the Kaunas Choir, the world's most talented large ensemble of singers, led by the most talented maestro, Petras Bingelis".

     

    In April one more momentous musical event is waiting for the admirers of Kaunas State Choir and L. van Beethoven’s music - an impressive vocal-instrumental score by L. van Beethoven – oratorio "Christ in the Mount of Olives" will be performed.

    Alina Ramanauskienė

    Nemunas. No 5

     

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