Composer, pianist, music theorist and teacher Lūcija Garūta was born on May 14, 1902 in Riga. In 1919, Lūcija Garūta began her studies at the Latvian Conservatory, where she studied piano with Marija Žilinska, Hans Schmidt, and Lidija Gomane-Dombrovska. She also studied composition with Jāzeps Vītols. In 1924, Lūcija Garūta graduated the composition class, and in 1925, the piano class. In 1926, she began studies in Paris, where she studied piano with Alfred Cortot and Isidor Philipp. In 1928, she continued studying composition at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris with Paul Dukas.
While studying (1919–1921), Lūcija Garūta was the pianist répétiteur at the Latvian Opera, in 1925–1926 she worked at Latvian Radio, and in 1926 she began her teaching career at the People’s Conservatory (1926–1947). She was a Latvian State Conservatory lecturer (1940–1977, from 1972 – a professor). Almost all of the musicologists and composers who studied at the Conservatory during that time period were students of composition and music theory with Lūcija Garūta.
Along with her teaching work, Lūcija Garūta turned to a career in performance. In 1926, she performed in France (Paris), and, in 1929, in Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt-am-Main). In the 1920s and 1930s, Lūcija Garūta was one of the most active pianists both as a soloist as well as accompanist, performing in Riga and in all of Latvia. Overall, Garūta performed with more than 100 musicians in chamber music concerts. In 1944, at the premiere of her cantata Dievs, Tava zeme deg! (God, Thy Earth is Aflame!) she played the organ. Unfortunately, at the end of 1940, due to health reasons, she had to suspend her concert performance work.
From 1926 to 1940, four evenings of Lūcijas Garūtas Compositions were held with the participation of many of the most prominent singers of that time (Milda Brehmanes-Štengele, Ādolfs Kaktiņš, Maris Vētra, etc.) and instrumentalists. In the 60s and 70s, several author’s concerts and other events were held, where the composer received the love and gratitude of the audience.
The creative process of Lūcija Garūta (as well as many composers of that time) was overshadowed by the dictatorship of the existing establishment. The premiere of the production of the opera The Silver Bird was canceled due to the fact that the opera depicted a workers’ strike. The Klavierconcert received harsh criticism from the LPSR Composers’ Union, because it did not correspond to the ruling non-conflict theory setting. For many years – until the second revival – it was also forbidden to play the cantata “God, Your Earth is Burning!” (“Dievs, Tave zeme deg!”).
Lūcija Garūtas was a member of the board and chamber of the Latvian Music Promotion Society. Received the Latvian Culture Foundation award for Variations in My Homeland for the symphony orchestra and Variations for the Latvian folk song Karavīri bædajas for piano and the award for Meditation for the symphony orchestra. In 1945, she was admitted to the Latvian Composers’ Union, in 1962 she received the title of Meritorious Music Worker of the Latvian SSR.
The composer died on February 15, 1977, Rīga.
Buried in Riga I Forest Cemetery, in a place assigned to the parish of Old St. Gertrude Church, to which the Garūti family belonged.
Everything that was important, close, brought joy or experience to Lucija Garuta, she expressed in music. Her music is ambitious and powerful, but also warm and romantic. It is deeply Latvian, but at the same time also characteristic of its era. The composer was with her people in its most tragic times, yet she was able to maintain faith and hope for the bright, the good.
The quantitative foundation to the works of Lūcija Garūta, totalling almost 200, is songs with the stanzas of many Latvian poets, as well as the poetry of Victor Hugo and Rabindranath Tagore. It is also significant that the half of the song texts were written by the composer herself, always consequently indicating that they are not meant as poems. Also notable are Latvian folk song arrangements – for piano, solo voice with piano, and ensembles. Piano music has an important role in the creative work of Garūta, whose first interpreter was the composer herself, beginning with miniatures up to large form works. The cantata “Dievs, Tava zeme deg!” is the most significant artistic document of her era, and the cantata’s legendary premiere was in 1944 at the Riga St. Gertrude’s Church. It has not lost its topicality even today, and often is the first composition that is associated with the composer. Thanks to the work of the Lūcijas Garūtas Fundation, today the composer’s music is performed even more frequently not just in Latvia, but also internationally (Europe, Japan, Canada, and elsewhere).