Raminta Šerkšnytė (born in Kaunas, Lithuania) is a composer, pianist (performing her own music), lecturer and associate professor of composition. She is a laureate of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts (the highest artistic distinction in Lithuania, 2008), in 2020 she was nominated for a Gramophone Classical Music Award. Her De profundis for string orchestra (1998), composed when she was just twenty-two years of age, is one of the most popular and performed Lithuanian compositions across the world. Maestro Gidon Kremer described De profundis as “the calling card of Baltic music”.
Raminta Šerkšnytė’s music is distinguished by its poetic nature, powerful emotional impact and its one-of-a-kind beauty created by Baltic mysticism and melancholy. The search for and coexistence of archetypes from both Western and Eastern cultures, and the fusion of major and minor are inherent in her music. Raminta Šerkšnytė seems to draw the audience into a broad range of emotions: from meditation with hints of mystery to outbursts of vital energy, though poignant Sehnsucht is predominant throughout. Her main artistic inspiration is the universal rules of harmony in nature with its metaphorical comparison to the archetypical states of the human mind. The poetic titles are always rooted in figurative sense. Semantic aspects always sit alongside the structural considerations in her composition. Of her craft, she states: “I believe that peak experience and spiritual impact is the essence in the art, which can lead to the unforgettable transcendental experience. Composition is an uplifted state of mind materialized by means of sounds, though its impressiveness depends on the composer’s technical mastery.
Raminta Šerkšnytė’s compositions are dashing and expressive, with the dense textures, and prominent polyrhythmic and polymodal features. In her music she fuses classical, Lithuanian ancient folk and avant-garde music languages. She has created her own composing system and called it the “fusion of major and minor”. Her “major-minor” system (which often sounds as non-traditional tonality) is based on her philosophical approach to music, asserting that inner harmony can be achieved only by having two (like Yin–Yang) symmetrical opposite elements. These binary elements – like modes of minor/major thirds, and “light” and “dark”, “warm” and “cold” sonorities – in the course of her composition, constantly alternate, being transformed and fused (like the chiaroscuro principle in fine art).
Raminta Šerkšnytė’s oeuvre is rich and versatile: from large-scale opera (Five Miracles of Mary), multimedia projects (Gloria for brass quintet, choir, symphony orchestra, recording and video projection) to intimate chamber works (Fantasia for piano) and pieces for young audience (Fairy-tale of the Little Prince for flute and orchestra). The best known is her orchestral music (De profundis, Iceberg Symphony, Mountains in the Mist, Fires) where subtle, synaesthetic colourful orchestration comes together with a dramatic, mighty and virtuosic sound. As a composer, she is also distinguished by her fluency within several styles – from pure melodically-grounded compositions (cantata-oratorio Songs of Sunset and Dawn) to conceptual complex instrumental pieces (Vortex for violin and ensemble). “I often feel like being ‘bilingual’,” says the composer, “though every one of my pieces is based on the main principle – the “fusion of major-minor” (in its broadest sense). I’m neither interested in repeating myself nor in writing according to the earlier“safe” and “tested” models, nor in being very productive. My modus vivendi is curiosity, the realization of my ideas and discovering something new for myself.”
Raminta Šerkšnytė has collaborated with the Kremerata Baltica Chamber Orchestra (under the artistic director Gidon Kremer), the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (conductor Mariss Jansons), conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Juilliard Orchestra, the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (conductor Modestas Pitrėnas), the St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra (conductor Donatas Katkus), Les Percussions de Strasbourg, violinists Gidon Kremer, Irvine Arditti, Hugo Ticciati and with many other musicians. Her music has been performed in numerous concerts around the globe, at such venues as the Lincoln Center (New York), the Wiener Musikverein, the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), the Berlin Philharmonic, the Paris Philharmonic. Her music has been featured at the following festivals: the ISCM World Music Days (Hong Kong, Tongyeong, Gent, Zagreb and Vilnius), the Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam), the Baltic Sea Festival (Sweden), the Lucerne Festival, to name a few. As a composer, she has received commissions from the Swedish Radio, Bavarian Radio (Germany), Kronberg Academy (Germany), the National Flute Association (USA) and other organisations.
Prizes, Awards, Publishers
In 2008, Raminta Šerkšnytė became the youngest Lithuanian composer to be awarded the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts (the highest artistic distinction in Lithuania). She is also winner of the composition competition Le Coup de Coeur des Jeunes Mélomanes(the Prince Pierre Foundation, Monaco, 2011), after being nominated by Arvo Pärt. In 2020 she was nominated and shortlisted for a Gramophone Classical Music Award. In 2005 she was a finalist for the Gaudeamus International Composers Award (Amsterdam). In 2005 and 2011 her works were among the top ten highest scoring compositions at the International Rostrum of Composers. Her other awards and commendations include the Golden Stage Cross (recognition as the best Lithuanian theatre composer in 2005) and several prizes by the Lithuanian Composers’ Union in recent years. Raminta Šerkšnytė’s music is included in releases by Deutsche Grammophon, Nonesuch, BR-Klassik, Sono Luminus and Music Information Centre Lithuania. She belongs to the artists agency Dr. Raab & Dr. Böhm.
Education and work
Raminta Šerkšnytė was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, into the family of a mathematician and a pediatrician. She began to study piano (with her aunt Rymantė Šerkšnytė) and the music theory from an early age. Later, she studied composition under Prof. Osvaldas Balakauskas at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre and also in various composers’ masterclasses and workshops abroad (with Louis Andriessen, Helmut Lachenmann, Pascal Dusapin, Öle Lützow-Holm and others). Raminta Šerkšnytė works as a freelance composer, lecturer and is also Associate Professor of Composition at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. She lives in Vilnius, Lithuania.