Balys Dvarionas

 1904 - 1972

 

There are quite a few musical families in Lithuania. Among them is Balys Dvarionas'  family, which for the fourth generation actively participates in the country's musical life. The family's tradition began with organist  Dominic  Dvarionas, whose fate often led him wandering through the world, as it did for many other Lithuanians at the time. He moved from Mosėdis to Saratov (where married  Barbora  Kniukštaitė)  and afterward to Simferopol. The young family returned to Lithuania in 1892  where Dominic Dvarionas worked as an organist in Ylakiai. After a year, the Dvarionas family established themselves in  Liepaja, where one of the largest Lithuanian communities in Latvia formed at the beginning of the 20th century.  Dominic  Dvarionas played the organ at the Catholic  Church and was a well-known authority on musical instruments. Of the twelve Dvarionas children, eleven grew up, seven of whom became musicians. 

Balys Dvarionas was born on June 19,  1904. Like his brothers and sisters,  he was taught music from his very childhood: the violin, organ, and piano.

 

He completed a middle school of commerce, played the organ at a church, for several years headed a Lithuanian choir and tasted the life of a silent movie pianist. He had a wonderful music teacher - the well-known Latvian composer Alfred Kalninsh, who advised him to study composition under Jaseps Vitolis at the Riga Conservatory. However, in 1920 Balys Dvarionas went to Leipzig. There he studied piano under Robert Teichmuller at the Conservatory and attended special music theory and composition courses held by Stephan Krohl and Sigfried Karg-Elert. He graduated the Conservatory in 1924 and afterward spent two years studying piano in Berlin under Egon Petri.

          Balys Dvarionas was a synthesis of talents in piano, teaching, conducting and composing. They bloomed almost all at once and Balys Dvarionas soon became one of the most famous personalities in Lithuanian music. From 1924 on he performed throughout Lithuania, and in 1928 he began to perform abroad. In 1926 he began teaching at the music school (later at the Conservatory) and from 1949 until the end of his life he taught at the  Music Academy in Vilnius. Over 50 pianists graduated Prof. Balys Dvarionas' class.

          He started his conducting activities in 1928, working with the music school orchestra. In 1931 he conducted a concert for the first time at the Philharmonic (the soloist was Egon Petri). In 1934 he went to Salzburg to attend conductor's courses led by Bruno Walter and his assistant Herbert von Karajan, and in 1939 he graduated Conducting classes he took as an external student under Herman Abendroth at the Leipzig  Conservatory.  From 1935  to 1938  he was the Kaunas  Radiophone  Orchestra  Conductor. In 1939 he arrived at the newly-regained [territory, the city of] Vilnius and together with architect Vytautas  Landsbergis - Žemkalnis established the  Vilnius  City  Orchestra, where  he worked as at head conductor, as well as at the later-established Philharmonic Orchestra. The last time Balys Dvarionas appeared on stage,May 12, 1972  with  the Lithuanian  Chamber Orchestra at the Philharmonic Hall,  he played  Mozart's Concerto and conducted Schubert's Mass. He was tormented by a harsh illness and died on August 23, 1972.

          His first  attempt  at  composing was for  the play Varnalėšos (Burdock) written by Vytautas Bičiūnas and produced in 1924 at the Vilkolakio Theatre.Later he wrote the music for two dramas produced by the State Theatre.  Together  with the  single-act ballets  by Vytautas  Bacevičius and Juozas Gruodis, the Balys Dvarionas  Piršlybos  (Matchmaking)  ballet was  produced  in 1933; this ballet was later  per- formed by the  State Ballet Company during  their extensive 1935 tour in Monte Carlo and London. He began to compose intensively once reaching the fifth decade of his life. The Symphony in  E-minor   appeared  in 1947, followed  by the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in B-minor in 1948 which insantly became  a classic  and was  performed  throughout  the world  by violinists,  afterwhich two piano and one French horn concertos  were  written.  In 1959 Balys Dvarionas'  opera  Dalia,  was  produced  (libretto - John  Mackonis  and story  according to the Balys Sruoga  historical drama, Apyaušrio dalia (The Duty of Early-Dawn).

          The composer created  pieces  for violin as well as  for cello, oboe, bassoon and piano, songs for solo and choirs,  harmonized  folk songs for choirs and vocals with piano, and more.  Balys  Dvarionas  compositions for solo piano: two sonatinas, the Little Suite, the Winter Sketches Suite, Preludes, Intermezzi, the short, poetically  named  pieces  (Nendrės [Reeds],  Pėdos/Lašai  [Footsteps/Drops], Toluma [Distance] and the  like). Broad  genres in  Balys Dvarionas'  work  include pathos and  strong dramatic heights while at the same time his piano and  other Chamber compositions  are dominated by lyricism and subtlety expressed imaginativeness. The composer endlessly valued folk songs (he has made a record of about 150 himself). All of Balys  Dvarionas' creations  are truly  penetrated  by the  spirit of folk songs which gives  his overall  style of music  immense  originality. The composer  himself commented his style like this in 1971:

 

My aesthetic ideals were formed under  the influence of 19th century romanticism, and I believe in the  musician's vocational call to spread beauty, good, harmony, to educate people and to raise  them above the routine. I believe  that people who say this type of view is behind the times are wrong. The ideals of human good have remained unchanged  over  many  thousands of years: love, truth,  freedom  and  friendship. To serve them  is not a step back- wards.

 

Prof. Balys Dvarionas

Vilnius, 1971.

 

Dr. Jonas Bruveris, Vilnius, 1997


Main Supporters


Organizers


Member of


Partners



Language