Kaunas State Choir

Kaunas State Choir was founded on October 23, 1969. The laureate of the Lithuanian National Award - Professor Petras Bingelis - has been leading the choir ever since its birth. The choir is funded by Lithuanian government and focuses mainly on large-scale works: oratorios, cantatas, masses, passions, stage and concert versions of operas spawning from the Middle Ages to contemporary eras within European concert music canon. It is the most famous choir in the country.

During its early stages when Lithuania was still part of the Soviet Union, the choir was a frequent performer in the prestigious concert halls of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, also taking part in Russian music festivals such as ”Russian winter“ and ”Moscow stars“; during this time the choir managed to perform in all Soviet Republic capitals. Its first international acknowledgement outside the Soviet union came in 1984 after performing Symphony No. 7 by M. Theodorakis in Paris, which was later recorded in Berlin ”Schauspielhaus“ concert hall and conducted by Herbert Kegel.

“Kaunas State Choir is a choir of the highest order” - Lord Yehudi Menuhin

The choir’s concert life, however, became more intense after Lithuania gained its independence and started collaborating with violinist and conductor Lord Yehudi Menuhin: in 1992 alone the choir performed in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Egypt, Russia, Argentina, and Chile. Other notable collaborations during the early days of the country’s independence include German pianist and conductor Justus Frantz, as well as Russian violoncellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. Besides this, at the turn of the century the choir began working with Polish composer - Krzysztof Penderecki. A number of the composer’s pieces were performed in Poland, Russia, or Germany, including ”Te Deum“, ”Seven Gates of Jerusalem“, ”Passio Secundum Lucam“, etc.

Over the years the choir has been a performing member of various European music festivals (e.g. Bordeaux Spring, The Mediterranean coast - France; Schleswig-Holstein - Germany; Turku - Finland; etc.), and the world’s most famous concert music venues (e.g. Pleyel, Notre-Dame Cathedral - Paris, France; Saint Cecily National Music Academy - Rome, Italy; Colon Theatre - Buenos Aires, Argentina, etc.). BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Leipzig’s Gewandhausorchester, Moscow and Saint-Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestras - are among a few to perform with the choir on repeated occasions. Likewise, conductors such as Dmitri Kitayenko, Myung-Whun Chung, Yan Pascal Tortelier, John Axelrod, Vladimir Spivakov, and Valery Gergiev, as well as world-famous soloists - Irina Archipova, Sergej Larin, Violeta Urmana, Montserrat Caballé, Andrea Bocelli, Lawrence Brownlee, or Dmitri Hvorostovsky held joint performances with the choir.

The Kaunas State Choir performed more than 3000 times both in Lithuania and outside the country’s borders; 75 thousand people listened to Carl Orff’s cantata “Carmina Burana” in the Berlin Stadium, while G. F. Händel’s oratorio ”Messiah“ was performed 80 times, if not more. Various works composed by Gustav Mahler, Carl Orff, Sofia Gubaidulina, Alfred Schnittke, Arnold Schöenberg, Dmitri Shostakovich, Pēteris Vasks, or Jasques Loussier were also premiered in Lithuania for the first time.

The choir always pays tribute to Lithuanian national holidays and ceremonials, as well as festive occasions, and it’s hard to imagine the country’s biggest music festivals without them; notable people such as the pope John Paul II or Beatrix, the Queen of the Netherlands, are among those who the choir honoured with its performances during their visits in Lithuania.

“They sing religious hymns and prayers in Latin as if they have been singing them from the moment of their birth.” - Mstislav Rostropovich

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