Osvaldas Balakauskas has created a unique voice by forging new variations on recent compositional techniques, while for some time serving his country in a diplomatic capacity and presenting some of Lithuania's finest writers through his vocal and choral settings. Balakauskas received his basic training at the Vilnius Pedagogical Institute from 1957 to 1961, and from 1964 to 1969, he studied composition with Boris Lyatoshins'ky at the Kiev Conservatoire.
During this time, he created the Impresonata for flute and piano (1964), the very unusual and extreme timbres of Extrema for piccolo, cor anglais, bass clarinet, double bassoon, trumpet, xylophone, and harp (1966), Aerophonia for wind quintet (1968), String Quartets No. 1 and No. 2 (1971), and other pieces. These works were influenced by serialism and especially the music of Webern and Messiaen.
In 1972, he moved to Vilnius. In the intervening years, he created music for the film/ballet Zodiac (1984) for chamber orchestra and tape, the ballet Macbeth (1988) for synthesizer, Ludus modorum (1972) for cello and orchestra, Symphony No. 1 (1973), Sonata of the Mountains for piano and orchestra (1975), Symphony No. 2 (1979), the expansive Passio strumentale for solo strings and orchestra (1980), Dada Concerto for chorus and small orchestra (1982) (Lithuanian text by Leonardas Gutauskas), Spengla-Ula for strings (1984), Opera strumentale for large orchestra (1987), his first electro-acoustic piece Orgy. Catharsis for electric violin and tape (1979), and other works. In all of these pieces, Balakauskas was constantly refining his unique version of serial technique (in his procedure, the series determines the subsequent transpositions of new material as well as quotations from former music) and alternate diatonic structures. These ideas, which contribute to the creation of his identifiable and personal harmonic "sound," are explored in his Dodecatonics.
From 1988 to 1992, he was a member of the council of the Sajudis ("Unity," a multi-party coalition in Lithuania). From 1992 to 1994, he was the Lithuanian ambassador (the first after 50 years of foreign rule) to France, Spain, and Portugal (residing in Paris). Balakauskas was still active in composition while engaged in political activity, creating the magnificent Ostrobothnian Symphony (1989), Polylogue for alto sax and strings (1991), Meridionale (1994) in homage to Lutoslawski, and other works. In 1996, Balakauskas was awarded the Lithuanian National Prize. At the present time, he is head of the composition department at the Lithuanian Academy of Music. His other work includes the Requiem in Memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis for mezzo soprano, choir, and orchestra (sung in Latin) (1995); the Symphony No. 4 (1998); and Symphony No. 5 (2001).