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B i o g r a p h y

 Balys Dvarionas

 1904 - 1972


There  are  quite  a  few  musical  families in  Lithuania.  Among them is Balys Dvarionas'  family, which  for the  fourth  generation  actively participates in  the  country's  musical life. The family's tradition began with organist  Dominic  Dvarionas,   whose  fate often led him wandering through the world, as it did for many other Lithuanians at the time.He moved from Mosėdis to Saratov (where married  Barbora  Kniukštaitė)  and afterwards to Simferopol. The  young family  returned to Lithuania in 1892  where Dominic Dvarionas worked as an organist in Ylakiai. After a year, the Dvarionas family established  themselves  in  Liepaja,  where  one of the largest  Lithuanian  communities in  Latvia formed  in the beginning of the 20th century.  Dominic  Dvarionas played  organ  at  the  Catholic  Church and was a wellknown authority on musical instruments. Of the twelve Dvarionas children, eleven grew up, seven of which became musicians. 

Balys  Dvarionas  was  born  on  June 19,  1904. Like his brothers  and  sisters,  he was  taught  music  from  his

very childhood: the violin, organ and piano. He completed a middle school of commerce, played organ at a church,for several years headed a Lithaunian choir and tasted life of a silent movie pianist. He had a wonderful music teacher - the wellknown Latvian composer Alfred Kalninsh,who advised him to study composition under Jaseps Vitolis at the Riga Conservatory. However, in 1920 Balys  Dvarionas  went to Leipzig. There he studied piano under Robert Teichmuller  at the Conservatory and attended special music  theory  and composition  courses  held  by Stephan Krohl and Sigfried Karg-Elert. He graduated the Conservatory in 1924, and afterwards spent two years studying piano in Berlin under Egon Petri.

          Balys Dvarionas was a synthesis  of talents in piano, teaching, conducting  and  composing. They bloomed  almost  all at  once and Balys Dvarionas soon became one of the most famous personalities in Lithuanian music. From 1924 on he performed throughout Lithuania, and  in 1928 he  began to perform abroad.In 1926 he began teaching at the music school (later at the Conservatory) and from 1949 until the end of his life  he  taught  at the  Music  Academy  in Vilnius. Over 50 pianists graduated Prof. Balys Dvarionas' class.

          He started  his  conducting  activities  in 1928,  working  with the music school orchestra. In 1931 he conducted  a concert  for the first  time at the Philharmonic (the soloist was Egon Petri). In 1934 he went to Salzburg to attend conductor's courses led by Bruno Walter and his assistant Herbert von Karajan, and  in 1939 he  graduated  Conducting  classes  he took  as an external student under Herman Abendroth at the Leipzig  Conservatory.  From 1935  to 1938  he was the Kaunas  Radiophone  Orchestra  Conductor. In 1939 he  arrived at the  newlyregained  [territory, the  city of] Vilnius and together with   architect  Vytautas  Landsbergis - Žemkalnis  established  the  Vilnius  City  Orchestra, where  he worked as at head conductor, as well  as at the later-established Philharmonic Orchestra. The last time Balys Dvarionas appeared on stage,May 12, 1972  with  the Lithuanian  Chamber Orchestra at the Philharmonic Hall,  he played  Mozart's Concerto and conducted Schubert's Mass. He was tormented by a harsh illness and died on August 23, 1972.

          His first  attempt  at  composing was for  the play Varnalėšos (Burdock) written by Vytautas Bičiūnas and produced in 1924 at the Vilkolakio Theatre.Later he wrote the music for two dramas produced by the State Theatre.  Together  with the  single-act ballets  by Vytautas  Bacevičius and Juozas Gruodis, the Balys Dvarionas  Piršlybos  (Matchmaking)  ballet was  produced  in 1933; this ballet was later  per- formed by the  State Ballet Company during  their extensive 1935 tour in Monte Carlo and London. He began to compose intensively once reaching the fifth decade of his life. The Symphony in  E-minor   appeared  in 1947, followed  by the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in B-minor in 1948 which insantly became  a classic  and was  performed  throughout  the world  by violinists,  afterwhich two piano and one French horn concertos  were  written.  In 1959 Balys Dvarionas'  opera  Dalia,  was  produced  (libretto - John  Mackonis  and story  according to the Balys Sruoga  historical drama, Apyaušrio dalia (The Duty of Early-Dawn).

          The composer created  pieces  for violin as well as  for cello, oboe, bassoon and piano, songs for solo and choirs,  harmonized  folk songs for choirs and vocals with piano, and more.  Balys  Dvarionas  compositions for solo piano: two sonatinas, the Little Suite, the Winter Sketches Suite, Preludes, Intermezzi, the short, poetically  named  pieces  (Nendrės [Reeds],  Pėdos/Lašai  [Footsteps/Drops], Toluma [Distance] and the  like). Broad  genres in  Balys Dvarionas'  work  include pathos and  strong dramatic heights while at the same time his piano and  other Chamber compositions  are dominated by lyricism and subtlety expressed imaginativeness. The composer endlessly valued folk songs (he has made a record of about 150 himself). All of Balys  Dvarionas' creations  are truly  penetrated  by the  spirit of folk songs which gives  his overall  style of music  immense  originality. The composer  himself commented his style like this in 1971:


My aesthetic ideals were formed under  the influence of 19th century romanticism, and I believe in the  musician's vocational call to spread beauty, good, harmony, to educate people and to raise  them above the routine. I believe  that people who say this type of view is behind the times are wrong. The ideals of human good have remained unchanged  over  many  thousands of years: love, truth,  freedom  and  friendship. To serve them  is not a step back- wards.


Prof. Balys Dvarionas

Vilnius, 1971.


Dr. Jonas Bruveris, Vilnius, 1997

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