Juozas Domarkas: Čiurlionis The Sea, Slovak Philharmonic

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Mikolajus Konstantinas Čiurlionis - Jūra (The Sea) (1903)
Conducted by Juozas Domarkas with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mikolujas Konstantinas Čiurlionis was born at Varena in southern Lithuania in 1875, the son of an organist. From the age of fourteen he studied at the music school in Plunge, acquiring a knowledge of various instruments, following this in 1894 by a period at the Warsaw Music Institute as a piano pupil eventually of the widely cultured Antoni Sygietynnski. He later studied composition with Zygmunt Noskowski, whose pupils included Szymanowski and Fitelberg, and went on to further study of composition in Leipzig with Liszt¡¦s pupil Salomon Jadassohn and Carl Reinecke. In 1902 he began to develop another aspect of his talent when he entered the Warsaw Drawing School, moving two years later to the newly established School of Fine Arts, and exhibiting in Warsaw in 1905 and in Vilnius, where he made his home in 1907. As a painter he won posthumous success with exhibitions in Warsaw, Vilnius and St. Petersburg soon after his death.

Čiurlionis was closely concerned with Lithuanian nationalism, boosted by the removal of publication restrictions in 1904. He involved himself in the national choral movement, and was deeply interested in Lithuanian folk-music, an enthusiasm that his youngest sister, 24 years his junior, was to pursue with great distinction to become the leading authority on the subject. In 1909 he moved to St. Petersburg, but returned to Lithuania before his death at the age of 35 in 1911.

The symphonic poem The Sea (Jūra) was started in 1903 and completed in 1907. In texture it has about it more of Richard Strauss than of Debussy, although the orchestra is handled with sensitivity to produce an overtly pictorial effect, much as some of the paintings of Čiurlionis had been conceived in quasi-musical terms as pictorial sonatas. The sea is shown in a variety of moods, gentle, lyrical, running deep and rising to a climax of grandeur.