Dreamy, sorrowfull , holy. The loves of Lūcija Garūta.

Ligita Ašme
Oratorio "God, thy earth is aflame!" is the most notable work of Lūcijas Garūta, which made him widely known in Latvia and the world. However, thanks to her outstanding talent as a pianist and long-term cooperation with singers, she has also composed many songs that can be seen as pearls of vocal chamber music. The most popular of them, "Svētā mīlā", is a masterpiece in the genre of Latvian solo songs, which experienced its climax precisely in the interwar period, because in the following Soviet years, intimate lyrics were largely denied. The story of this song reveals to us not only the troubled personal life of the young composer, but also changes in her ideas about love.

Love lyrics are a characteristic theme in Lūcijas Garūta’s songs. “Svētā mīlā” is dedicated to the violinist Rūdolfs Miķelsons (1905–1993) on his wedding day on May 12, 1929, but it was created as a kind of summary of the personal life experiences of the composer herself (Garūta herself also wrote the words to the song). Her first romantic love during her studies, the young composer Ādolfs Komisārs, died in 1920. Even at the end of her life, she remembered it with deep sadness: “..a dear friend Ādolfs Komisārs, with whom we played Beethoven’s symphonies together, who had opened the world of Scriabin to me, had passed away with a dylon. [..] Ādolfs Komisārs was very ill. He loved Scriabin very much. And I have an unforgettable memory of Sunday mornings when I walked in, then his mother said to me: “We are waiting for you like the sun!” and I played him Scriabin’s Preludes, mostly opus 11. He loved them so much. Sometimes a sheet of music was brought to the bedside, and he said to me: “Look, this place” he would like to hear a little more like that. Here, maybe that’s the place.” And I tried to play again exactly as he had it in his heart. And I have to say, for these Sunday mornings I prepare like for big concerts, just to be able to play in a way that I can bring joy.” [1]

Due to the painful memories, Lūcija Garūtas rarely played Scriabin’s compositions in her later life.

After graduating from the conservatory, Garūta spent the years 1926 and 1928 in Paris. There she plays music together with the violinist Rūdolfs Miķelsons, who at that time was studying in Paris as a scholarship holder of the Latvian Culture Foundation. Being exceptionally gifted from early childhood, Rūdolfs Miķelsons received the support of Jāzeps Vītolas for his studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

In 1916, Janis Rozentāls painted the portrait of Rūdolfs Miķelsons, then an 11-year-old boy, a violin student. He is the first Latvian violinist to perform in Paris with a solo concert, and his concertmaster here is Lūcija Garūta. Mikelsons belongs to the circle of Garūta’s closest friends, he was the first to play all her violin works. In his youth, he often visited the Garūt family. Rūdolf’s sister Alida is Lūcijas childhood friend. Later, Miķelsons becomes godfather to Gaisma, daughter of Garūta’s older sister Olga, while Lūcija Garūta becomes Gaisma’s godmother. The letter that the two musicians sent from Paris to Pāvul Jurjāns in 1926 suggests that they were also connected by a deeper sympathy. At one time, Garūta revealed to the violinist Juris Švolkovskis that in the composition “Teika” dedicated to Miķelson, her surname and Miķelson’s first name Rūdolfs were encoded (notation of musical notes with Latin letters and notation of classical music notation): GAReUtA; ReUtDoLaFaSol. [2]

Lūcija Garūta is one of the first Latvian women who learned the skill of driving a car since 1926. In the picture, she can be seen by the car with her sister Erna Reinvaldi and her husband. The composer lived with her sister’s family all her life in an apartment at 11 Marijas Street.

However, the time in Paris is associated with a particularly dramatic experience in the life of Lūcija Garūta. She falls in love with the French sculptor Georges Crouzat (1904–1976). In 1926, the young composer dedicated the song “Mans sapni” (“Mon rêve”, Garūta’s own text in both French and Latvian) to him. The song stands out with a bright, romantically excited mood. The black eyes sung in it, according to Marisa Vētra’s memories, were a unifying motif for a whole cycle. Unfortunately, this great love is not destined to be fulfilled either. It was only after many years that it was revealed that Georges Cruz’s aunt had not given Garūta’s letters to him, but had not destroyed them either. Perhaps she didn’t like that Lūcija was a foreigner. The sculptor finds them later, but he is already married to his wife and does not tear open the letters out of respect for the writer. When Crouzat has already died, the sculptor’s widow Simona Crouzat reads the letters and is surprised – how beautiful they are, what a world opens up in them! Therefore, she decides to find the author and writes to Lūcija Garūta’s sister[3].

Lūcija Garūtas has not told her relatives much about this love. Silvija Stumbre’s book about the composer “Earth and Sky” (1969) also mentions only “black eyes”. However, the experiences were obviously deep – they explain in many ways the tragic direction of the composer’s music at that time. The feeling of pain and disappointment is most directly expressed in the song “Skumstošā mīlā” with the composer’s own words. It was composed in 1929 with the words “Why didn’t you give, why didn’t you give, my doomed love…”

On the other hand, “Holy Love”, composed in the same year 1929, dedicated to Rudolph Miķelson on his wedding day, is a unique antithesis to “Sad Love”. Created after bitter experiences in personal life, it reflects a different, broader understanding of love (“Come, love, come! Come into our souls, come, all-holy, all-clear love, love that has no end. Let our life become full in your light!”) . The idea of love this time is not connected with subjectively intimate feelings, but with calm trust in the Most High. That’s why the rapidly anxious mood of many of Garuta’s early songs is absent here. Here, the noble and warm melody is supported by a steady pulse, a festive character and an accompaniment restrained in the texture of the chords.

The RMM collection contains the manuscript of song “Svētā Mīla”, which shows that the composer did not manage to write the entire accompaniment on the day of the premiere. The song was sung by Milda Brehmane-Štengele, the author herself playing the organ, in the crowded Dom church (then called Mary’s church) at the wedding ceremony of Rūdolfs Miķelsons. Violinist Aleksandrs Arnītis, singer Herta Lūse and other notable Latvian artists also perform. Rūdolfs Miķelsons marries Anna Andersone, the daughter of prominent public worker Alfred Anderson. A civil engineer, writer, pedagogue, educational worker and public worker, Anderson, as the mayor of the city of Riga (1921–1928), did a lot to eliminate war damage and promote culture, for example, he created the Misiņa library, he also translated Wagner’s operas and dreamed of becoming an opera director. His daughter Anna is studying agronomy at the time of marriage and is a good horsewoman. The wedding was celebrated spaciously and luxuriously in the father-in-law Anderson’s apartment on Brīvības street, more than 100 guests were invited.

“Svētā mīlā” once gained such wide recognition among singers and listeners as rarely a song by a Latvian composer. Its numerous performances, recordings and arrangements for various ensembles – for solo voice with organ, voice with piano, voice with string orchestra and even women’s choir – confirm that it is one of the best-known love songs of Latvian composers. “Saint love” has been sung by almost all the most prominent Latvian singers, but Jānis Zābers and Leonarda Daine are recognized as the best interpreters of this song.

[1] From the interview of Lūcija Garūta with Oļģerts Grāvītis in 1975.

[2] Juris Švolkovskis in an interview with Dzintra Erliha, 2010.

[3] Daiga Mazvērsīte LR, 2004.