Kaunas State Choir started its professional artistic career on October 23, 1969. Since the foundation of the choir, it has been led by the laureate of the Lithuanian National Award - Professor Petras Bingelis.
 
The choir has prepared more than 150 voluminous instrumental-vocal pieces belonging to the world music classics ranging from the Middle Ages to modern music: oratories, cantatas, masses, passions, stage and concert versions of operas. At the beginning of its career the choir had given several successful performances in Lithuanian concert halls and, during the period when Lithuania still comprised a part of the Soviet Union, numerous times delivered concerts in the prestigious concert halls of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, took part in the Russian music festivals ”Russian winter“, ”Moscow stars“, with concert programs visited the capitals of all Soviet Republics and soon gained international acknowledgement.
 
In Western countries the choir first became famous in 1984 by performing Symphony No. 7 by M. Theodorakis in Paris; later this piece was performed and recorded in Berlin ”Schauspielhaus“ concert hall under the baton of Herbert Kegel (1920-1990).
 
After the restoration of Independence of Lithuania that opened ways to the West, especially when the choir started collaboration with the music legend of the XXth century, a violinist and conductor Lord Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), its concert life became extremely active and purposeful. Year 1992 was marked with the participation of the choir in the festival dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America - ”Old and new routes to India“ that took place in Spain. This was a year of successful tours. Concert and theatrical performances of oratorio ”Messiah“ by G. F. Händel under the baton of Y. Menuhin took place in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Egypt, Russia; the collective delivered performances in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Santiago (Chile). The choir became one of the famous singer collectives in Europe.
 
Since the very first years of Independence of Lithuania the choir got involved in close collaboration with German pianist, conductor Justus Frantz. The first joint performances took place in summer of 1992 in Vilnius and Schleswig-Holstein festival in Germany, later followed concerts in the New Year music festivals in Maspalomas (Canary Islands). In 1996 on the initiative of the conductor the choir went on the tour to the Eastern European countries. Symphony No. 2 by G. Mahler was heard by music lovers of Warsaw, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague and Moscow.
 
Meaningful and creative friendship linked the Kaunas State Choir with the violoncellist and conductor - Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007). Maestro greatly appreciated mastership and professionalism of the choir, considered it to be one of the best musical collectives in the world he had an opportunity to work together. The collaboration started in 1998 in Cologne (Germany). Here a cantata ”Sonnengesang“ by composer S. Gubaidulina for percussions, choir and cello was performed. Then the choir was invited to a French town Evian to perform Symphony No. 9 by L. van Beethoven with accompaniment of Leipzig Radio Orchestra. With this famous musician the choir gave performances in Gstaad (Switzerland). Under the baton of M. Rostropovich the choir sang a cantata ”Carmina Burana“ by C. Orff. On January 8, 2001 the choir, introducing the culture of Lithuania in Paris, together with M. Rostropovich performed Symphony No. 9 by L. van Beethoven in Théâtre des Champs - Elysées.
 
At the turn of the century the choir got acquainted with the Polish composer - Krzysztof Penderecki. On September 17, 1999 in Warsaw the choir performed K. Penderecki’s ”Te Deum“, in 2001 in Saint-Petersburg during the ”White nights“ festival – ”Seven Gates of Jerusalem“ under the baton of the author himself, in summer 2003 at Schwäbish Gmünd Church music festival in Germany – ”Passio Secundum Lucam“.
 
Since 1989 the choir has been constantly invited to take part in European musical festivals – ”Bordeaux Spring“ and ”The Mediterranean coast“ in France, Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, Turku in Finland; festivals that take place in Middle European countries. French audience had an opportunity to admire performances of the choir in Paris ”Pleyel“ concert hall and Notre-Dame Cathedral, Italian – at Saint Cecily National Music Academy in Rome; the choir gave splendid performances in ”Colon“ theatre in Buenos Aires, opera houses of Santiago, Genoa, Bologna, Cairo, Warsaw; on repeated occasions performed together with symphony orchestras: BBC of London, National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Moscow and Saint-Petersburg Philharmonies and others, sang together with world famous-soloists - Irina Archipova (1925-2010), Sergej Larin (1956-2008), Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1969-2017), Montserrat Caballé, Violeta Urmana and others. The Kaunas State Choir delivered concerts under the baton of the following conductors: Dmitri Kitayenko, Cyril Diederich, Yan Pascal Tortelier, John Axelrod, Vladimir Spivakov, Valery Gergiev and others.
 
On January 12, 2003 in Berlin concert hall ”Am Gendarmenmarkt“ the Kaunas State Choir took part in gala concert dedicated to commemorate the UNESCO decision to include the manuscript of Symphony No. 9 by L. van Beethoven into the catalogue of documentary heritage – ”Memory of the World“. The choir sang with the accompaniment of the orchestra ”Philharmonic of Nations“ and under the baton of Justus Frantz.
 
The same year Kaunas State Choir performed at the season opening concert of one of the largest and most modern European concert halls – ”Auditorium Parco della Musica“ in Rome. Kaunas Choir alongside with foreign performers and choir and symphony orchestra of ”Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia“ directed by Myung-Whun Chung performed Symphony No. 8 by G. Mahler.
 
The Kaunas State Choir has held more than 3000 performances in Lithuania and far beyond its borders. More than 75 thousands of auditors listened to the cantata „Carmina Burana“ by Carl Orff that the choir performed in the Berlin Stadium; G. F. Händel’s oratorio ”Messiah“ was performed by the choir as many as 80 times.
 
In concert halls of Lithuania, the Kaunas State Choir is known as a performer of premieres of foreign and Lithuanian composers’ music. The choir has prepared more than 250 premieres under the baton of the most famous Lithuanian conductors – Jonas Aleksa (1939-2005), Saulius Sondeckis (1928-2016), Juozas Domarkas, Gintaras Rinkevičius, Robertas Šervenikas and with the accompaniment of Lithuanian National, State symphony and chamber, opera and ballet theatre orchestras. Compositions of Gustav Mahler, Carl Orff, Sofia Gubaidulina, Alfred Schnittke, Arnold Schöenberg, Dmitri Shostakovich, Pēteris Vasks, Jasques Loussier were introduced to the Lithuanian audience for the first time.
 
The choir is a permanent participant of events and concerts dedicated to commemorate national holidays and festive occasions that are live broadcasted by Lithuanian National radio and television. One of the most significant music events in Lithuania is Pažaislis music festival that during summer period guests in concert halls of Kaunas and other cities of Lithuania and has already become a traditional event. It is difficult to imagine this festival without a participation of the Kaunas State Choir.
 
The music performed by the choir is often meant to honour influential guests that visit Lithuania: in 1993 during the apostolic visit the choir sang to the pope John Paul II, in 2008 in Trakai - to the Queen of the Netherlands – Beatrix, in 2009 at the opening ceremony of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania – to the numerous gathered monarchs and leaders of European countries.
 
Among the most prominent records, there are the choir’s records of ”Messiah“ by G. F. Händel, ”Die Schöpfung“ by J. Haydn, Symphony No. 9 by L. van Beethoven, Masses ”As-dur“ and „C-dur“ F. Schubert under the direction of Y. Menuhin; ”Resurrection“ Symphony No. 2 by G. Mahler, operas – ”Die Zauberflöte“ by W. A. Mozart, ”Otello“ by G. Verdi recorded with conductor G. Rinkevičius and State Symphonic Orchestra of Lithuania. A special place in the discography is dedicated to the pieces of choral music by Lithuanian composers – M. K. Čiurlionis, J. Naujalis, Č. Sasnauskas, B. Dvarionas, J. Juzeliūnas, B. Kutavičius.

Prepared by Rimantas Klevečka

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