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Donatas Katkus (Conductor, Viola)

Born: Lithuania

The Lithuanian conductor, violist and music pedagogue, Donatas Katkus, finished in 1960 mKaunas Secondary Music School (now-J.Naujalis Music School), the viola speciality with E.Satkevičius. In 1960 he entered the Lithuanian Conservatoire, the class of Professor Fledžinskas. There he started performing actively both as a soloist and a quartet member. In 1963 he was awarded a diploma at All-union Competition in Leningrad. In 1963, he founded the Section of Young Musicians at the Artists‘ Palace, the Lithuanian Theatrical Society. There he organised and played in the Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Jonas Aleksa. In 1965 he launched a string quartet later named the Vilnius String Quartet. In 1968 he became a post-graduate student of philosophy at Vilnius University, but he did not complete the thesis. In 1968 together with the Vilnius String Quartette he entered the post-graduate courses of Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire, the class of Professor A.G. Grigoryan, where he studied with V.N. Gvozdecki.

As a member of the quartet Donatas Katkus he took part in a number of competitions and in 1972 the quartet was awarded the right to participate in the International Liege (Belgium) Quartet Competition where they earned the first prize. This was the beginning of very intense concert activities-as a member of the quartet he performed in the whole of Europe, the Soviet Union, prestigious international festivals, Asia, South America and Africa. The quartet has amassed a considerable repertoire, was constantly engaged in premiering works of Lithuanian composers as well as presenting foreign composers to the Lithuanian audience. Katkus has also launched festivals of chamber and quartette music in Vilnius and concert cycles in other Lithuanian towns. For example, in a 17-concert cycle the quartet has played all quartetttes by Haydn (according to the opinion of that time, there were 83 compositions, not 76). Together with the Vilnius Quartet Katkus gave over 1,500 concerts, made 20 discs as well as recordings at Moscow, Stockholm, Linz, Helsinki, Hilversum etc. radio studios.

In 1994 Donatas Katkus founded the St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra under the aegis of Vilnius Municipality. The orchestra is noted for its enormous stylistic universality; it has premiered over 100 Lithuanian and a great number of foreign compositions. The orchestra has won an impressive foreign acclaim; it has made frequent appearances in the Theatre des Champs-Elisee, Paris, the Petersburgh Philharmonic, the Royal Palace, Sweden, the Berlin Schauspielhaus,the Harpa, Island, in Avinjon and other festivals as well as in Denmark, Sweden, Finland , Spain, Germany, Russia etc. The CDs of the orchestra(over 45) are released by Naxos (USA), Dutton (UK), BIS (Sweden), EA (France), Ambitus (Germany) etc.

Donatas Katkus embarked upon his pedagogical career when a student. In 1964 he was invited to join Vilnius Children Music School No. 1 (now B.Dvarionas Music School) as head of the orchestra division, and in 1968 he offered chamber ensemble and quartette courses at the Lithuanian Conservatoire(now the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre). In 1983 he became an associate professor, and in 1996, Professor. Katkus has given master-classes in Finland, Spain, and Denmark. In 1994-1999 he was Professor at the Collegium Musicum Summer Academy in Pommersfelden, Germany. A number of outstanding musicians have studied with Katkus; his students play in all Lithuanian orchestras, as well as in the orchestras of Canada, USA, Israel, Germany, Sweden , etc. while the Kaunas Quartette is actively engaged in the musical activities of Kaunas and has earned international recognition.

Donatas Katkus has prepared and presented four theoretical courses-‘Introduction to Musical Semiotics‘ (at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre),‘ The History of Music against the Background of Other Arts‘(at the Faculty of History, Vilnius University), ‘The Theory of Interpretation of Music and the Comprehensive History of Performance‘ (at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre), and ‘Conscious Approach in the Self-preparation of a Musician‘ (at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre). Katkus has authored several books: The Lithuanian Quartet, The Performance of Music (went into two editions), as well as a book of conversations Lithuania has Gone out of Fashion. He has written over 400 articles; the realm of his interests include the aesthetics of music, semiotics, the theory of interpretation and the history of Lithuanian music.

Donatas Katkus is the winner of the National Award of Culture and Arts in 1986, and of the Lithuanian National Award of Culture and Arts in 2001. In 2003 he was awarded the Officer‘s Cross of the Gediminas Order; in 2012, the Cross of the Commandor of the Order ‘For Services Rendered to Lithuania‘; the WIPO Creativity Award in 2003; in 2012, the honorary insignia of the Ministry of Culture ‘Carry your Light and Believe‘; in 2012, the Čiurlionis Prize , the Lithuanian Composers‘ Union; in 2013, the medal for the services rendered to the City of Vilnius, and in 2014, the Concord prize.

Source: St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2015)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Vaclovas Augustinas

Orchestra Conductor

Video: BWV 21

Links to other Sites

St. Chistopher Chamber Orchestra: Conductor - Professor Donatas Katkus


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