From the Land of Amber and Song to Prague

Article excerpt

Giedre Luksaite-Mrazkova was born and grew up in "the land of amber and folk songs," as Lithuania is sometimes called. After studies in Vilnius and Moscow, fate brought her to Prague in 1970s, and she still lives and works here. Today she has a very high reputation, and not just in the Czech Republic, both as an outstanding harpsichordist (on historic instruments) and organist, and as a teacher at the Prague Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (HAMU). She has performed and still performs in many concert halls, records CDs and is training a whole series of new musical hopes. And she is also an extremely interesting person, for whom human factors are important as well.

You come from an intellectual family. Has this background helped to form your character?

My parents had a university education, worked in university environments and were members of the Lithuanian intelligentsia. The numbers of the intelligentsia had been seriously reduced during the war by deportations, and so only a handful were left. There were so few in fact, that they all knew each other. Many of them used to come to our house -- composers, writers, artists. It naturally had a clear influence on me. For example, it was tremendously interesting to watch an idea being born or developing. For example the composer Julius Juzeliunas used to come and visit us, just at the time he was writing his opera Sukileliai (Rebels). The story and libretto were created by Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas, who was another regular guest at our house. Seeing an opera or libretto born in this way was a precious experience, and one that inevitably had an effect on me.

I know you've often answered this question, since Lithuania is still a rather exotic place for Czechs and your country and story make an appealing theme for journalists. But despite this I hope you'll forgive me if I ask you about your personal and musical path from Lithuania to Bohemia...?

I believe we all of us have a certain path that we've chosen in life. Things that look like accidents in my view aren't accidents at all, but impulses that lead us in a certain direction. In the 1 950s Professor Zuzana Ruzickova came to Lithuania with her harpsichord and so did Professor Jiri Reinberger, who played the organ in the concert hall in Vilnius. And it was precisely after the organ concert that I enthusiastically decided I would become an organist. Another such impulse was when the Soviet government allowed the opening of an organ class at the Vilnius Music Academy in 1962. I entered the academy in the same year, joining the piano and the organ class. In 1967 I finished my studies at university and wanted to go on to do a doctorate, but I didn't know which of the two instruments to choose. The impulse turned out to be a free place in the organ class at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, which I gladly took up. In the same period I was offered a chance of a short visit to Prague. When I arrived , it was like a long cool draught of freedom. Compared to Lithuania Czechoslovakia seemed to me a completely free state. I toured around the country a little and I said to myself -- even though only on the basis of an immediate reaction that if I ever had to emigrate somewhere, then only Bohemia would do. After I returned to Lithuania I was able to keep in contact with Reinberger, who used to come to Vilnius to play in concerts. In 1972 he invited me to the summer master classes in Prague, where I was very successful, and in 1973-19741 had a year's scholarship here. It was a very fruitful year, and one thing I did during that year was take up the harpsichord. And at the end of the scholarship year there was also a fateful meeting, and the result was a wedding a year later....

After you came to the country you tried to make a name with Lithuanian compositions and the music of other Baltic nations, but this was not much of a success, despite the fact that excellent music has been written there and still is. …