For a few days, the town of Blaibach in eastern Bavaria became a true hub of Lithuanian culture: photography, contemporary music, choral singing and accordion mastery events ended the year-long Lithuanian cultural season in Bavaria under the title Ohne Distanz (Without Distance). The opening of the exhibition by photographer Gintaras Česonis and concerts by the contemporary music ensemble Synaesthesis, the chamber choir Aidija and the accordion virtuoso Martynas Levickis took place on 18-21 November at the Blaibach Concert Hall, an example of imposing contemporary architecture, the impressive repertoire of which is of interest not only to German but also to an international audience.
Lithuania and Bavaria: very close
The four-day programme of Lithuanian culture at the Blaibach Concert Hall took place under the title Ohne Distanz – Litauische Kultur in Bayern ganz nah” (Without distance: Lithuanian culture in Bavaria is very close).
“I have been enjoying close contact with Lithuania and Lithuanian artists for many years, including conductor Mirgas Gražinytė-Tyla and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra that she headed. I have had a chance to teach master classes as a visiting professor at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, so I am well aware of the high standards of your musical culture. The final stage of the project of presenting Lithuanian culture in Bavaria in Blaibach conveyed what highly professional artists from your country can offer: a great fusion of innovation and tradition,” said Thomas E. Bauer, the founder of the Blaibach Concert Hall, an award-winning vocalist and opera soloist.
“After the events of the Lithuanian culture season, which took place in the major concert halls, ancient chambers, impressive museums and galleries, world-famous jazz clubs and literature houses of Munich, Wurzburg and Augsburg, we gathered in a very special, almost fairytale-like place – the Blaibach Concert Hall, a unique example of modern architecture, hidden in the wooded mountains. For several years now, absolute wonders have been happening here: audiences that gather at various music events often travel as many as a few hundred kilometres. We always say that distance and size are relative when it comes to cultural geography: even the most distant artists and their audience get closer to each other if they decide to create together,” said Aušrinė Žilinskienė, Director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute.
The idea to establish a modern concert hall in Blaibach came from the desire to save the town from the region’s demographic problems of depopulation and economic stagnation. The hall of bold modern forms which has been designed by the Munich architect Peter Haimerl and built in 2014 on the town’s main square is dedicated to classical and contemporary academic music. A part of the building reminiscent of a massive sloping granite block is built below the ground so it does not rise above the towers of Blaibach’s central square, while the hall with its unique acoustics can accommodate a 200-strong audience (that is, a tenth of the town’s population). The concert hall has been featured in major contemporary architecture magazines, and its repertoire is being discovered by more and more lovers of European music.
From the forests to the depths of the ocean
From 18 November, the exhibition Ancient Woods by the photographer Gintaras Česonis is open in the lobby of the Blaibach Concert Hall, presenting the artist’s vision of the impenetrable forests that once connected Lithuania and Bavaria. Especially for this exhibition, Česonis captured the oldest trees in Kaunas and while on artists’ residency in Blaibach in the summer.
“[I made] tens of thousands of careful steps every day so I don’t tread on what has become the most vulnerable today. But so I would live the fact that the forest was once intact, sustainable, connecting, sharing information and dangers, and is now still able to heal and protect itself and me,” Česonis recalled his creative process during the residency in Blaibach.
On 19 November, the contemporary music ensemble Synaesthesis, which won the prestigious Bavarian prize, the special Ernst von Siemens award for ensembles, performed Žibuoklė Martinaitytė’s piece The Hadal Zone, which the composer wrote in this summer while residing in Blaibach. The architecture of the Blaibach Concert Hall, which appears as if inserted into the ground, helped the composer to get into the mood of her piece, which was inspired by the deepest and darkest area of the ocean called the hadal zone.
“The music of the composition, together with the light design by AB Lights immersed the audience in the depths of the ocean, where the low pitches of tuba, bass clarinet, cello, double bass and piano, as well as electronics created a singular art experience,” said Marta Finkelstein.
“It was a great pleasure to collaborate with Žibuoklė Martinaitytė because her minutely researched instrumental material, deep musical insights and personality warmth created an atmosphere in which, as we looked for creative solutions, we were able to talk not only professionally but also intuitively, and the piece, which I simply can’t get out of my head after all the intensive creative process, was becoming work that we really couldn’t wait to share with the audience,” said Finkelstein.
On 20 November, a concert by the chamber choir Aidija fused Lithuanian and German choral culture: “We were very much looking forward to meeting the Blaibach audience. We had prepared a special programme for our concert on the final weekend of the Lithuanian cultural season in Bavaria, which we called Lithuanian-German Dialogue. Contemporary choral music by Lithuanian composers was presented in the programme alongside German choral pieces, from unexpected arrangements of folk melodies to original contemporary compositions. Through this intercultural dialogue, we strived to convey to audiences the uniqueness, vitality and diversity of the choral music scene in both countries. In the second part of the concert, we performed the oratorio for choir and non-traditional and folk instruments, From the Jotvingian Stone, by the Lithuanian composer Bronius Kutavičius (1932-2021). With this performance, we aimed to honour the memory of one of the most renowned Lithuanian composers,” shared the choir director Justinas Linkevičius about the programme.
On 21 November, accordionist Martynas Levickis presented an impressive range of his instrument and talent: “It was a beautiful programme that revealed the full range of accordion character. I played the latest pieces of my solo programme: from Johann Sebastian Bach to Philip Glass and even Gustav Mahler, which is a completely new discovery for me, too. I hoped to bring to the audience that same feeling of discovery. After the performance, I immediately travelled to another concert that day in Mainz with the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Orchestra, with which I was working in the Rhineland-Pfaltz region that week,” shared Levickis the itinerary of his tour in Germany.
The project Without Distance: Lithuanian Cultural Season in Bavaria 2021 (Ohne Distanz – Litauische Kultur in Bayern 2021) initiated by the Lithuanian Cultural Attaché in Germany is organised by the Lithuanian Culture Institute and funded by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture. Partners: the Lithuanian Embassy in Germany and Bavarian cultural organisations.