Composers and Authors /

Grāvītis, Oļģerts (1926 - 2015)

Biography   Works  

"...all the creative output that I have listed in my catalogue of completed works – music, books, manuscripts – has come into being solely in the Jaunzariņi house in Jaunpiebalga. There I was inspired not just by the beauty of the Latvian countryside, but also by Jāņaskola – located just over a kilometre south of Jaunzariņi – the birthplace of Piebalga’s famous son, composer Emīls Dārziņš. It is as if, since the 1940s, these invisible influences have given wings to my entire musical life, and still continue to inspire and refresh it to the present day."

Oļģerts Grāvītis


Composer and musicologist Oļģerts Grāvītis was born on 30 August, 1926, in Alūksne. He studied piano at the Cēsis People’s Conservatory (now the Cēsis Music College) from 1940 to 1945 (until May 1944 with Daina Pavasara, and to 1945 with Pauls Krieviņš), then at the Latvian State Conservatory’s music school from 1945– 1947, first with Igors Kalniņš, and then with Arvīds Žilinskis. He then studied in the History department of the Latvian State Conservatory (1947–1952, with Jēkabs Vītoliņš), from which he graduated with a diploma in musicology. He continued his studies at the Leningrad State Conservatory as a postgraduate in music history (1952–1956 with Georgij Tigranov), then at the Latvian State Conservatory’s composition department (1956–1960, with Jānis Ivanovs), from which he graduated with a diploma in composition.

He worked as a piano accompanist, later as a teacher of musical literature in the Emīls Dārziņš Music College and the Jāzeps Mediņš Music College (1948–1956). From 1961, he was a lecturer at the Latvian State Conservatory (now the Latvian Academy of Music) in the music history department; he became assistant professor in 1970 and professor in 1984. In 1994, he received the degree of Dr. Art. He has been senior scientific assistant at the Institute of Language and Literature at the Latvian Academy of Sciences, director of its music sector (1975–1983), and head of the Music History Department of the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music (1984–1993). He heads the scholarly research for the J. Vītols memorial room. From 1999, he has been an active member of the research department of the Academy of Music, preparing for publication a series of monographs, brochures, and collected editions.

He is an active music journalist, publishing extensive essays on Latvian music history, features on anniversaries and the Latvian Song Festivals, concert reviews, critiques and obituaries, not only in Latvian journals and newspapers, but also in Russian and German music publications. Since 1991, he has been writing for the newspaper Laiks (USA), Brīvā Latvija (Europe), and the music periodical Latvju Mūzika (USA).

Starting in 1999, he developed the annual Latviešu mūzikas kalendāri (Calendars of Latvian Music), which from 2001 are no longer published. At the beginning of the 21st century, he began writing the Latviešu mūzikas vēstures konspekti (Abstracts in Latvian Music History), with some 70 abstracts having been distributed in computer printout form to listeners at lectures at the Latvian Academy of Music. He wrote the script for the TV programme Dzīves dziesma (The Song of Life) in 2003.

He has also been very active as a lecturer, from 1952 participating in broadcasts for Latvian Radio, and from 1956 for television. Starting in 1954, he presented concert lectures at the Latvian Philharmonia. As a piano lecturer, he has participated in author concerts organised by the Music Foundation throughout Latvia (1955–1985). He has given literally hundreds of introductory talks for concerts of Latvian music, and still gives lectures and papers at many different events.

He has been a member of the Latvian Composers’ Union since 1952, a member of the Union committee (1956–1981), and committee secretary (1959–1962, 1968–1974). He has participated in congresses of the Latvian Composers’ Union and at conferences on musicology. As a member of the Composers’ Union delegation in the 1960s–1990s he went on many different international assignments (former republics of the Soviet Union as well as Finland, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, Canada, the United States and elsewhere). He was a member of the Latvian Journalists’ Union (1960–1989), and was director of their music department for many years. He was a member of the Research Council of the Latvian Academy of Music (1959–1997). From 1997, he has been a member of the Riga Latvian Society, was chairman of its Music Committee from 1998 to 2005, and was elected to its council in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

He received the Jānis Ivanovs Award in 1986, the Order of Three Stars, IV class in 1998, a Certificate of Recognition from the Latvian Council of Ministers in 2006, and the Latvian Great Music Award in 2007. He is an honorary member of the Reiters Foundation board (1998), an honorary member of the Dziesmuvara choir (2000), and an honorary member of the Riga Latvian Society (2003).

His choral works (both original songs and Latvian folk song arrangements) have been performed in the 15th–22nd Latvian Song Festivals. He created the first television opera in Latvian music history – Vanadziņš (Little Hawk).

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