Lithuania in the News
31st May 2009
Focus on Vilnius as Millennium Festivities Gather Strength
The international spotlight this year on Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius has seen Vilnius rise up to the occasion and make its presence felt both historically and culturally. The year 2009 is the year during which Vilnius is honoured as a European Capital of Culture and Lithuania celebrates its Millennium – one thousand years since the first
mention of Lithuania in historical records. A wealth of cultural events – concerts, jazz, theatrical performances, ballet, opera, dance festivals – have been staged in Vilnius, with many more exciting events scheduled before the end of the year. Numerous historical and artistic exhibitions have been demonstrating the rich cultural and historical heritage of Lithuania and Vilnius.
A recent book on Vilnius by Laimonas Briedis (“Vilnius: City of Strangers”, Baltos Lankos/CEU Press, 296 pages) has received critical international acclaim. A fun-to-read book, it deals with the city’s rich and multi-cultural history through the words of people who visited the city over the centuries since the founding of Vilnius by King Gediminas in the 14th century. Reviewing the book, the British magazine “The Economist” described Vilnius as “an example to others - a contested city, but not a divided one”. Another interesting book, this time presenting the multi-faceted Vilnius to the German speaking world, is “The iron wolf in a baroque labyrinth. Awakening Vilnius” (“Der eiserne Wolf im barocken Labyrinth. Erwachendes Vilnius”, Picus 2009) by Cornelius Hell. The “iron wolf” in the title of book is a symbol of Vilnius. In the legend about the founding of Vilnius, the howl of a mighty “iron wolf” is heard far afield and prophesises the fame of Vilnius that will spread around the world.
Valery Gergiev conducting in Vilnius.
Photo courtesy Lietuvos Rytas
This year the 13th Festival of Vilnius (May 13–29, 2009) was dedicated to Vilnius – European Capital of Culture 2009. It opened with a superb concert by the renowned London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev, one of the world’s foremost conductors. One of the works in this concert was the newly commissioned work “Lithuanian saga” by the eminent Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin, who incidentally is also a Lithuanian citizen. “Lithuanian saga’s” theme is the great victory in 1410 by Lithuania and its allies in the battle of Tannenberg against the German Teutonic Order, which shaped the future of Eastern Europe for many centuries to come. Another memorable concert was the performance on
Yehudi Menhuin (right) with Petras Bingelis,
conductor of Kaunas State Choir.
Photo courtesy
May 18 of Handel‘s oratorio “Messiah” by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Choir from Germany under the baton of Rolf Beck, the choir’s conductor. This performance was in memory of the great violinist and conductor Yehudi Menhuin (1916 – 1999), commemorating the 10th anniversary of his death. Yehudi Menhuin was instrumental in introducing many Lithuanian musicians to the world. He made numerous tours to Europe and beyond with Lithuania’s Kaunas State Choir and the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, performing the “Messiah” in particular. Yehudi Menhuin had stated: “Your small country has world class performers. I discovered and fell in love with your musicians, because their art breathes with true tradition.”

Further information: 13,14,19/05/09