18 March 2016

Vidmantas Bartulis: Bolero Pavane Lachrimae

This week I thought it would be fun to look back at a work I discovered long before I moved to Vilnius. Bolero Pavane Lachrimae by Vidmantas Bartulis, I first heard performed in Cardiff in a concert given by the St. Christopher's Orchestra. The concert was part of the Vale of Glamorgan festival that year and the festival is what opened my eyes to the many wonderful composers here in Lithuania.

Vidmantas Bartulis (1954) is quite a curious figure. Often labelled as 'neo-romantic', Bartulis is more than just a conservative composer trying to bring back old traditions. His output can be compared to the likes of Alfred Schnittke with the clever use of polystylism, but also the desire to tackle tradition head on and see what can this tradition bring. In works like 'I Like F. Chopin' and other works in his 'I Like..' series, Bartulis draws on his favourite music like a springboard to jump from into something new, but still deeply connected to his love of music.

In the work Bolero Pavane Lachrimae Bartulis draws on musical ideas from the Lachrimae Pavane by Dowland, mostly the shifts of harmony. The work is quite detached from Dowland  but still holds its gut wrenching quality. The opening stabs are intensive and brutal, made more dramatic by their irregularity. The entrance of the cello is filled with sadness and beauty, before it steps back and the brutal attacks return. 

The main focus of the first movement is heralded by the pulsing chords which underpin the cello obligato. This section is quickly followed by another fragment with the cellist singing above a pulsing percussive line in the violins. Like many sections of the piece, the moment passing quite quickly into a new moving material.

Suddenly the piece explodes into life, with tremolandi in the orchestra. The violence and drama is reminiscent of the opening but is continuous and the soloist flies over it and fights against it all. The drive never seems to end and the cellist fights valiantly on. Before suddenly returning to original progression, like a rushed and relieving return home. The end of the first movement sees the cellist acting as percussion and colour on top of the beautiful melancholic chorale in the orchestra.

The second movement, opens with a beautiful chorale. Setting the scene for a beautiful conclusion, before the cellists return. The sumptuous line of the cello is just a wonderful moment and still strikes me, even after 3 years of listening to it. The movement progresses and eventually draws to a close, fading into nothing. Here is a recording on Youtube:

This was the first piece that drew me to the work of Vidmantas Bartulis, and I have yet to be disappointed by his work. I hope you all enjoy and I will see you next time.


  1. Hi,
    Thank you for the blog. I am discovering really good composers thanks to it!.
    I would like you to review sometime Lithuanian composer Raminta Serksnite and Estonian Rene Eespere.


    1. Thank you for reading. I am glad it is reaching an enthusiastic audience.

      I have been meaning to get round to Serksnyte and Eespere, so I will make sure they appear in the near future.