Lithuania's first lady triumphant

April 15, 1991|By Alexei Vinogradsky | Alexei Vinogradsky,Special to the Evening Sun

The Lithuanian Hall on Hollins Street erupted with applause and screams of "Bravo! Bravo!" as the tour of classical musicians triumphantly ended their concert.

But pianist Grazina Landsbergiene is not so concerned about the praise. Her first love is the music, a love that takes her on tour away from her country and from her other duties -- those as the wife of the president of Lithuania.

"When I'm here, my conscience hurts that I can't care about my husband now, especially in this difficult time for my country," said Landsbergiene. But she added, "I couldn't refuse to play because it's part of my life."

Landsbergiene is on her second tour of the United States. This time, she and tenor Virgilijus Noreika and soprano Irena Milkeviciute will tour seven U.S. cities.

The tour is being sponsored by the Lithuanian Foundation, a national organization that supports Lithuanian culture and education in the United States. Local members estimated that there are approximately 25,000 Lithuanians in the Baltimore area.

Yesterday, about 300 people attended the concert and gave standing ovations to the performers, but Landsbergiene was unable to say whether she believed her concert was a success. "Let the audience consider about success," she said. "Our business is to play for the audience."

Her path to the stage has not been easy. In the 1940s, she was exiled to Siberia with her parents, and some 300,000 other Lithuanians. Her exile made it difficult to receive musical training and she applied three times to the Lithuanian Conservatory of Music in Vilnius before she finally was accepted.

Today she includes in her repertoire, along with music of Verdi, Handel and Beethoven, the music of Lithuanian composers such as Karosas, Ciurlionis and Paketuras.

"I think some Lithuanian music has a deserved place in the world of music," she said.

Despite political tensions in the Soviet Union and Lithuania's demands for independence, she said Russian audiences appreciate her music. "There are many good people who understand all our problems and they sympathize with our demands," she said. "Because we, I mean Lithuanians, don't intend revenge. We want just freedom for our country. And even if there is some political confrontation, it doesn't mean there is a human confrontation."

Although she is wife of Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis, Landsbergiene said she tries to stay out of politics. "I haven't a right to decide something in an official way. But I know exactly what my people feel and what are their hopes and demands," she said. "You know, the big powers, the super-powers always have their own interests. And of course, for them it is awfully difficult to recognize that some little state has a right to be sovereign to have its own way and its own geographic location."

Despite reforms, Landsbergiene said the Soviet government is still lying to its people. "Before watching the Soviet television information program Vremya (Time), I always took some tranquilizer medicine so as not to be mad," she said. "Unfortunately, it's not the simple lie. It's a refined lie. This is a Soviet method to separate different people."

But Landsbergiene said she prefers to express her national pride through music rather than politics. "The music of Lithuanian composers is one of the best means of promoting our country and our people," she said. "We have our own culture and this culture is not less than the others."

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