First Digital Collection of Works for Guitar by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis Released
As the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis approaches, the Music Information Centre Lithuania is expanding its collection of sheet music editions of the composer’s music. While most of the publications so far have been piano works, this time the digital edition is dedicated to guitar and is now available at MusicLithuania.com. The 18 piano pieces were arranged by the guitarist Rokas Jurkus.
Praised for his sensitive musicianship and visionary programmes, Jurkus is an active soloist, chamber musician, music producer, member of the Kaunas State Musical Theatre Orchestra, and a graduate of the Conservatoire de Lille in France.
These arrangements for solo, guitar duet, with one fugue for a trio, cover the wide range of Čiurlionis’ oeuvre. The digital sheet music edition includes the composer’s early post-impressionist works (Nocturne, Preludes VL 182a, VL 187, and VL 188), for which Čiurlionis was compared by his contemporaries with Chopin. Also, there are the composer’s later harmonic experiments in creating an imaginative, distinctive musical language (Diptych “The Nightingale”). At that time (from 1905) Čiurlionis directed the Warsaw Lithuanian Choir and began to harmonise Lithuanian folk songs heard in the Dzūkija region. In these, the composer again returns to tonal, romantic harmony, rewarding us also with excellent variations on the same folk themes.
The collection also includes several works from the composer’s late period (Prelude VL 312, Fughetta, “Motule mano / Oh, My Dear Mother”), just before he put his music notebooks aside and devoted all his energies to painting. The end of the publication contains a wide-ranging three-voice fugue from his student years, performed on three guitars.
“I adapted the first piece – Prelude VL 182a – to guitar with the help of the Italian guitarist and teacher Carlo Marchione. After the arrangement was successfully completed, I entrusted myself to arrange more of Čiurlionis’ works individually. The news that the sheet music will be published by the Music Information Centre Lithuania and become available to the guitar community has inspired me even more,” Jurkus said.
When preparing to play Čiurlionis’ music, it is important to know that most of his manuscripts are incomplete. As Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, a musicologist who has been studying the composer’s music for almost seventy years, has said, it is as if Čiurlionis was searching for a solution to his music and, and when he found it, he would put the sheet music aside – the further outcome of the work is already clear and there is nothing further to write. This certainly raises questions about the forms of the works, most of all about the reprises. In such cases, Rokas Jurkus relied on Landsbergis’ edition to reconstruct the works. This version was also used for indications of tempo, dynamics, or articulation, which were not left by the composer who almost exclusively wrote plain notes.
Chris Ruebens, a member of the Baltic Guitar Quartet and a composer himself, has also contributed to the publication, not only by helping to complete this version of the sheet music but also by initiating the presentation of the collection at the Baltic Guitar Festival in 2024.
The publication was funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.