Ciurlionis, Mikalojus Konstantinas


Ciurlionis, Mikalojus Konstantinas

Jura (The Sea), Symphonic Poem

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Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis – Jura («The Sea»)

(b. Varéna, 2. September 1875 – d. Pustelnik 10 April 1911)

Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis was born in Varèna in southern Lithuania on 10 September 1875. His father was an organist and gave the boy his first lessons on the organ. After moving to Druskininkai in 1878 the boy attended elementary school, but was forced to leave in 1885 at the age of ten owing to shortage of money. A friend directed him to a piano teacher who, however, soon found that there was nothing more she could teach him.

At the age of fourteen, at the recommendation of the same friend, Ciurlionis was sent to the orchestral school of Prince Oginski in Plungé, where he studied plainchant and music theory in addition to several instruments. It was in these years that he began to receive recognition for his compositions – short mazurkas and polonaises dedicated to Prince Oginski, who was to become a close friend. It was also here that the boy produced his first drawings and small-scale paintings.

In 1895, at the age of twenty, Ciurlionis enrolled at the Warsaw Music Institute. There he began to improve his general knowledge through self-instruction. He undertook an intensive study of physics, astronomy, literature, philosophy, history, mineralogy, and numerology, all of which would later find expression in his paintings. In Warsaw he met Eugeniusz Morawski, the subsequent director of the Music Institute, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship.

During his Warsaw years Ciurlionis produced a number of preludes, canons, fugues, four sets of piano pieces, and a string quartet. In the final year his tuition fees were waived in view of his outstanding academic record, and he finished his studies in 1899 with a degree in composition for which he wrote the cantata De profundis; he also received a new piano, a gift from his friend, Prince Oginski. His first published work, a Nocturne in F-sharp minor, appeared in the periodical Meloman.

On 16 October 1901 Ciurlionis enrolled at Leipzig Conservatory and began to study composition with Carl Reinecke and counterpoint with Salomon Jadassohn. Before long he had completed several canons and fugues as well as a string quartet performed as early as December 1901. While in Leipzig the young man, as in early years, suffered severely from homesickness compounded by a lack of recognition from his fellow students. Many letters to his family and friends date from this period. Nonetheless, he plunged into his studies and became thoroughly acquainted with Berlioz and Strauss. Handel, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner also left lasting impressions on the young composer.

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