Vytautas Smetona, a brief bio.

Posted by Vytautas Smetona Category: Bio

Vytautas Smetona pianistVytautas Smetona was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents, Birute and Julius, and paternal grandparents narrowly escaped the 1940 Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation of Lithuania. Vytautas’ grandfather, Antanas Smetona, was the last President of independent Lithuania. The family arrived and settled in the United States in 1941 via a route through Germany, Portugal, and Brazil. Vytautas’ father, Julius, was an attorney, and his mother was a musician.

Vytautas’ principal teachers were his mother, Birute, and brother, Anthony. He studied theory and composition with the noted composer Starling Cumberworth. Birute was a concert pianist whose teachers included Robert Casadesus, Yves Nat, and Leonard Shure. She appeared as soloist with the noted German conductor Franz von Hoesslin. Vytautas’ older brother, Anthony Smetona, was also a pianist and a graduate of the Mannes College of Music and the Juilliard School. His teachers included Rosina Lhévinne, Nadia Reisenberg, and Leonard Shure. He was a laureate at a number of international piano competitions and made his European orchestral debut with the Hamburg Symphony in the Brahms B-flat Piano Concerto.

Vytautas made a successful New York debut at Town Hall in 1976. This was followed by three additional, well-received New York recitals. He made his London debut at Wigmore Hall in 1980 and performed a live recital over radio station WQXR in New York City.

Among the orchestras with which Mr. Smetona has appeared as piano soloist are the Baltimore Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony.

His recording debut, “Vytautas Smetona Plays Chopin Liszt, and Rachmaninoff”, was released in 1979 and was enthusiastically received. In addition to glowing reviews by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the San Francisco Chronicle, Audio Magazine wrote as follows about the album: “Fantastic technique, and better than that, a big concept of his music”.

His musical career was interrupted in March of 1983 after a final performance given at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He returned to school, earned master’s degrees in mathematics and operations research, and became a Fellow in the Society of Actuaries. He established a consulting firm but never lost touch with music, an oasis of beauty, as he continued to reflect and study. After a prolonged absence, he has once again become active in musical life.

His CD, “All the Way Back”, is his first release since 1979 and features an original composition, Capriccio in D Major, together with music of Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann.

Vytautas has an avid interest in composing as well as performing. He has written a number of original works including his “Canonic Variations and Fugue” for strings. Most recently, he completed “A Country Song” (a work whose title belies the fact that it is a serious composition with contrapuntal elements written in the style of the common practice period) which appears in “Back”, a music video featuring Mr. Smetona. He is currently finishing his “Fantasy” for piano.

In addition to his musical and professional accomplishments, Vytautas is a fitness and sports enthusiast. As a college tennis player, he participated in the N.C.A.A. Division III singles championship. After graduation, he was the top ranked men’s singles player in Northeastern Ohio and was ranked top ten in men’s singles in the Midwest. He once extended a former N.C.A.A. Division I singles champion to three sets in a best of three set qualifying match for an A.T.P. grand prix tournament.