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About this Piece

Vykintas Baltakas (b. 1972)

Lithuanian Vykintas Baltakas studied at the Vilnius Music Academy, where he founded a vocal ensemble and a chamber choir, and won prizes in composition and conducting. In 1993 he moved his base to Karlsruhe, Germany, where he studied composition with Wolfgang Rihm and conducting with Andreas Weiss. He also attended the Darmstadt Summer Courses for three years. From 1994 to 1997 he also worked with Peter Eötvös at the Hungarian composer’s International Institute, and in 1995 he became Eötvös’ assistant at the Music Academy in Karlsruhe. Baltakas has also studied at IRCAM in Paris.
Baltakas has been Music Director of L’Ensemble du Nouveau Siècle in Strasbourg and at Schloss Rheinsberg. He has also worked with the ASKO Ensemble Amsterdam, Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern Frankfurt, Klangforum Wien, the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra Vilnius, the London Sinfonietta, and the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg, among others.

Nominated by Eötvös, Baltakas won the Claudio Abbado Vienna International Composition Award in 2003, and he led Klangforum Wien in the world premiere of his about to drink dense clouds, on a program pairing his music with works by his mentor, Eötvös. His music theater work Cantio had its world premiere in 2004 from the Munich Chamber Orchestra and Christoph Poppen. Recent premieres include the string quartet b(ell tree) by the Arditti Quartet and Lift to Dubai by Ensemble Modern.

Baltakas conducted the world premiere of (co)ro(na) in a radio broadcast from Hamburg in 2005. This is basically an aggressively bright ensemble scherzo, much concerned with instrumental timbre and articulation. Baltakas chose mostly treble instruments – including piccolo E-flat clarinet, soprano saxophone, and piccolo trumpet – and put them in their upper registers. He alternates and opposes quickly fluttering music with sustained notes and chords, but even the long notes are generally set in motion with trills. After reaching a thunderously trilling climax, the music ebbs out in a soft coda emphasizing the same germinal notes and intervals that launched the piece.

“This piece is part of a cycle,” Baltakas wrote in his program note. “Music is perhaps, by its very nature, infinite. You have to imagine a big mountain. On the top of it there stands someone with a stone in front of him. It is as yet motionless, everything is open, one is free. But then the man moves the stone. The stone is dislodged. This is when it comes to life. Its life, as it is falling, depends on the direction, the surface of the mountain, or the stone’s weight. When this stone hits against another one, the two of them will be falling together. It is no longer just one stone but TWO stones executing ONE motion. Perhaps they will meet a tree on their way. Perhaps they will break off one of its boughs. Perhaps the tree will continue to grow nevertheless, but differently, crooked. And because it is somewhat crooked, its fruits will be falling only on a particular spot. Perhaps on a spot covered with many little stones. But some of the fruits will manage to grow there in spite of that. And one day they will be stronger than the stones covering the roots. They will be moved. They will be falling downwards. Depending on the direction, the mountain surface, or the stones’ weight. In doing so, they will be moving other stones, other trees. And so on.

“Now picture for yourself an infinite mountain, where falling can happen upwards and sideways as well. A mountain with an infinite number of stones, each different in shape and weight. Where some of the stones will break, like glass, into tiny little pieces, and others will stick together. Featherweight stones, colored ones, ringing ones, scented ones. A mountain with no beginning and no ending.

“And now imagine a composer standing underneath, observing everything that is happening on the mountain. Obviously, he can only see a fraction of it. He tries to take notes. As a result, a particular viewpoint will be registered, one element with which he can create a mosaic-like picture.

“That element is a piece. That mosaic-like picture is a cycle. For me.”