The current European Capitals of Culture for 2022 are Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg), Kaunas (Lithuania) and Novi Sad (Serbia).
After Luxembourg city in 1995 and 2007, it is now the turn of Esch-sur-Alzette, the second largest city in the country, to be crowned a European Capital of
Culture in 2022. Esch’s slogan as a 2022 European Capital of Culture will be ‘REMIX Culture’ with the following four focus areas:
REMIX Nature, and
Esch2022 wants to celebrate the history of a cross-border region located in the heart of Europe. It will tell the story of its evolution from the industrial age
based on the steel industry until today's knowledge society and its future potential in the era of digital revolution.
Kaunas is the second city in Lithuania to hold the European Capital of Culture title after Vilnius in 2009. Its slogan – ‘From temporary to Contemporary Capital’ – illustrates the city’s ambition. During the interwar period, Kaunas was Lithuania's capital city. It has now come back under the spotlight as an innovative, culturally vibrant European city.
Novi Sad is Serbia's first European Capital of Culture. The yearlong cultural programme - under the ‘For New Bridges’ motto – aims to further connect the city’s and region’s cultural community and inhabitants with the European Union (EU) and reinforce their links with the rest of the Western Balkans area. Novi Sad's cultural programme is divided into four 'bridges' that the city wishes to share with citizens of Europe under the values of freedom, rainbow, hope, and love.
"The European Capital of Culture initiative illustrates the importance of culture in promoting the values on which our European Union is built: diversity,
solidarity, respect, tolerance and openness”, commented European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.
In 1985, the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, initiated the European Capital of Culture initiative. It has since become one of the most
high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe.
Cities are selected based on a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, including
promoting participation and active involvement by city inhabitants, communities and stakeholders,
contributing to the long-term development of the city and its surrounding region.
Holding the title of European Capital of Culture offers cities the chance to put themselves on the world map, promote sustainable tourism and rethink their
development through culture.
The title has a long-term impact, not only for culture, but also in social and economic terms - both for the city and the surrounding region.
Each year, two to three cities hold the title of European Capital of Culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no European Capitals of Culture in 2021. Future European Capitals of Culture: Veszprém (Hungary), Elefsina (Greece) and Timisoara (Romania) in 2023; Tartu (Estonia), Bad Ischl (Austria) and Bodø (Norway) in 2024; Chemnitz (Germany) and Nova Gorica (Slovenia) in 2025; Oulu (Finland) and Trenčín (Slovakia) in 2026.
Music of Lithuania refers to all forms of music associated with Lithuania, which has a long history of the folk, popular and classical musical development. Music was an important part of polytheistic, pre-Christian Lithuania – rituals were accompanied by music instruments and singing, deeds of the heroes and those who didn't return from the war were celebrated in songs.
Music was very important part of ancient Lithuanian polytheistic belief. It is known that, at the start of the 2nd millennium, Baltic tribes had special funeral traditions in which the deeds of the dead were narrated using recitation, and ritual songs about war campaigns, heroes and rulers also existed.
First professional music was introduced to Lithuania with travelling monks in the 11th century. After the christianization of Lithuania in 1387, religious music started to spread, Gregorian chant was introduced. Travelling musicians arranged concerts in the manors and castles of the Lithuanian nobleman, local cappellas were founded.
It is known, that Anna, Grand Duchess of Lithuania, wife of Vytautas the Great which had diplomatic relationships with the Teutonic Knights, who sent her expensive gifts, including clavichord and portative organ in 1408. Daughter of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas, Aldona, when married to Casimir III of Poland, 1325 took her palace orchestra to Cracow. It had musicians which played lute, zither and lyre.
The first opera (Dramma per musica) in Lithuania was staged in the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in 1636. Marco Scacchi and Virgilio Puccitelli were the opera's impresarios. The appearance of the opera in Lithuania is quite early, especially considering the fact that Italian opera phenomena was formed at about 1600 and first opera staged in Paris was just before 1650.
In the 17th century in Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, three Italian operas were staged – all by palace composer Marco Scacchi, to librettos by Virgilio Puccitelli - Il ratto d’Elena (The Elena Kidnapping) (1636), L'Andromeda (Andromeda) (1644), Circe Delusa (Disillusioned Circe) (1648). The scenography and stage machinery was made by Italian architects and engineers Agostino Locci, Bartolomeo Bolzoni and Giovanni Battista Gisleni. The cultural life of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was especially intense during the reign of Sigismund II Augustus. The Vilnius residence was a place to host many chamber concerts, music and dance festivities and carnivals, and music has become an integral part of the public life of the Palace. Musicians from other countries, especially from Italy, were invited to Vilnius. Among the most notable was Hungarian composer and lutenist Bálint Bakfark, who came to Vilnius from Rome, Italian composer Diomedes Cato. Composer and lutenist Michelagnolo Galilei, brother of Galileo Galilei was playing in the court of Radvila in Vilnius in the 17th century. Approximately 100 musicians worked in Vilnius at the court of Mikalojus Radvila Juodasis, the Protestant Grand Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Palatine of Vilnius (1515–1565).
First printed Lithuanian book Catechismusa Prasty Szadei (The Simple Words of Catechism) in 1547 contained 11 religious hymns in Lithuanian with sheet music. Lithuanian jesuit Žygimantas Liauksminas (Sigismundus Lauxminus) published the first music handbook in Lithuania - Ars et praxis musica in 1667. It was a first book of the trilogy, devoted to Gregorian chant - other books include Graduale pro exercitatione studentium and Antifonale ad psalmos, iuxta ritum S. Romanae Ecclesiae, decantandos, necessarium. The books were published at the University of Vilnius - S.R.M. Academicis Societatis Jesu.
Recent findings - The Sapieha Album (Sapiegos albumas) and the Diary of the Kražiai Organist (Kražių vargoninko dienoraštis) demonstrated that the big part of the Lithuanian church music of the 17th century was directly influenced by the most prominent composers of Italy of that time - Girolamo Frescobaldi; Italian organ tablature notation prevailed, basso continuo was studied.
Lithuania and its turbulent history was a subject of operas long before the appearance of the national opera in Lithuania. Everardo II, re di Lituania (Everardo II, King of Lithuania), music by João de Sousa Carvalho, libretto by Gaetano Martinelli was written in 1782 to celebrate the birth of Pedro III, King of Portugal. I Lituani (The Lithuanians) - is an opera consisting by Amilcare Ponchielli to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on the historical poem Konrad Wallenrod written by Adam Mickiewicz. It premiered at La Scala in Milan on 7 March 1874.
One of the first professional Lithuanian musicians was Juozas Kalvaitis (1842-1900). He composed a four-voiced Mass in the Lithuanian language in Tilžė. In 1877, an oratorio The Creation by Joseph Haydn was translated to Lithuanian and performed in Vilnius. First national opera Birutė by composer Mikas Petrauskas (1873-1937), libretto - Gabrielius Landsbergis-Žemkalnis (1852-1916) was staged in 1906.
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911) is considered the greatest Lithuanian composer of his generation, and probably of all time.
Lithuanian folk music belongs to Baltic music branch which is connected with neolithic corded ware culture. In Lithuanian territory meets two musical cultures: stringed (kanklių) and wind instrument cultures. These instrumental cultures probably formed vocal traditions. Lithuanian folk music is archaic, mostly used for ritual purposes, containing elements of paganism faith.
There are three ancient styles of singing in Lithuania connected with ethnographical regions: monophony, multi-voiced homophony, heterophony and polyphony. Monophony mostly occurs in southern (Dzūkija), southwest (Suvalkija) and eastern (Aukštaitija) parts of Lithuania. Multi-voiced homophony, widespread in entire Lithuania, is the most archaic in Samogitia. Traditional vocal music is held in high esteem on a world scale: Lithuanian song fests and sutartinės multipart songs are on the UNESCO's representative list of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Sutartinės (from the word sutarti—to be in concordance, in agreement, singular sutartinė) are highly unique examples of folk music. They are an ancient form of two and three voiced polyphony, based on the oldest principles of multivoiced vocal music: heterophony, parallelism, canon and free imitation. Most of the sutartinės' repertoire was recorded in the 19th and 20th centuries, but sources from the 16th century on show that they were significant along with monophonic songs. At present the sutartinės have almost become extinct as a genre among the population, but they are fostered by many Lithuanian folklore ensembles.
The topics and functions of sutartinės encompass all major Lithuanian folk song genres. Melodies of sutartinės are not complex, containing two to five pitches. The melodies are symmetrical, consisting of two equal-length parts; rhythms are typically syncopated, and the distinctly articulated refrains give them a driving quality.
Sutartinės can be classed into three groups according to performance practices and function:
Sutartinės are a localized phenomenon, found in the northeastern part of Lithuania. They were sung by women, but men performed instrumental versions on the kanklės (psaltery), on horns, and on the skudučiai (pan-pipes). The rich and thematically varied poetry of the sutartinės attests to their importance in the social fabric. Sutartinės were sung at festivals, gatherings, weddings, and while performing various chores. The poetic language while not being complex is very visual, expressive and sonorous. The rhythms are clear and accented. Dance sutartinės are humorous and spirited, despite the fact that the movements of the dance are quite reserved and slow. One of the most important characteristics of the sutartinės is the wide variety of vocables used in the refrains (sodauto, lylio, ratilio, tonarilio, dauno, kadujo, čiūto, etc.).
Different vocal and instrumental forms developed, such as lyrical, satirical, drinking and banqueting songs, musical dialogues, wedding laments, games, dances and marches. From an artistic standpoint the lyric songs are the most interesting. They reflect the entirety of the bride's life: her touching farewells to loved ones as she departs for the wedding ceremony or her husband's home, premonitions about the future, age-old questions about relationships between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, and the innermost thoughts and emotions of the would-be bride.
Chronicles and historical documents of the 13th through 16th centuries contain the first sources about songs relating the heroics of those fallen in battle against the Teutonic Knights. Later songs mention the Swedes, there are frequent references to Riga and Battle of Kircholm; songs collected in the early 19th century mention battles with the Tatars. Songs from uprisings and revolutions, as well as sonf of Lithuanian anti-Soviet guerrilla resistance in 1945-1952 and songs of the deportees are also classified as wartime historical songs.
They were sung at prescribed times of the year while performing the appropriate rituals. There are songs of Shrovetide and Lent, Easter swinging songs, and Easter songs called lalavimai. The Advent songs reflect the mood of staidness and reflection. Christmas songs contain vocables such as kalėda, lėliu kalėda; oi kalėda kalėdzieka, while Advent songs contain vocables such as leliumoj, aleliuma, aleliuma rūta, aleliuma loda and others. There are several typical melodic characteristics associated with Christmas ritual songs, such as a narrow range, three-measure phrases, dance rhythms, a controlled slow tempo, and a tonal structure based on phrygian, mixolydian or aeolian tetrachords. Polyphonic St. John's Feast songs are commonly called kupolinės, which include refrains and vocables such as kupolėle kupolio, kupolio kupolėlio, or kupole rože.
Work songs vary greatly in function and age. There are some very old examples, which have retained their direct relation with the rhythm and process of the work to be done. Later work songs sing more of a person's feelings, experiences and aspirations. The older work songs more accurately relate the various stages of the work to be done. They are categorized according to their purpose on the farm, in the home, and so on.
The rateliai (round dances) have long been a very important part of Lithuanian folk culture, traditionally performed without instrumental accompaniment. Since the 19th century, however, fiddle, basetle, lamzdeliai and kanklės came to accompany the dances, while modern groups also incorporate bandoneon, accordion, concertina, mandolin, clarinet, cornet, guitar and harmonica. During the Soviet occupation, dance ensembles used box kanklės and a modified clarinet called the birbynės; although the ensembles were ostensibly folk-based, they were modernized and sanitized and used harmonized and denatured forms of traditional styles.
The most important Lithuanian popular folk music ensembles included Skriaudžių kanklės, formed in 1906, and Lietuva. Such ensembles were based on traditional music, but were modernized to be palatable to the masses; the early 20th century also saw the spread of traditional musical plays like The Kupiškėnai Wedding.
Some of the most prominent modern village ensembles: Marcinkonys (Varėna dst.), Žiūrai (Varėna dst.), Kalviai-Lieponys (Trakai dst.), Luokė (Telšiai dst.), Linkava (Linkuva, Pakruojis dst.), Šeduviai (Šeduva, Radviliškis dst.), Užušiliai (Biržai dst.), Lazdiniai-Adutiškis (Švenčionys dst.). Some of the most prominent town folklore groups: Ratilio, Ūla, Jievaras, Poringė (Vilnius), Kupolė (Kaunas), Verpeta (Kaišiadorys), Mėguva (Palanga), Insula (Telšiai), Gastauta (Rokiškis), Kupkiemis (Kupiškis), Levindra (Utena), Sūduviai (Vilkaviškis). Children folk groups: Čiučiuruks (Telšiai), Kukutis (Molėtai), Čirulis (Rokiškis), Antazavė (Zarasai dst.).
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Date: February 2022.
Photo Credits: (1) Folk Group Arinushka, (2ff) Logos, (8) Saulius Petreikis, (9) Sutaras, (10) Hornpipei, (11) Kanklės, (12) Sen Svaja, (13) Šimkaus Konservatirijos Lietuviš Muzikos Ansamblis Kupolė (unknown/website).