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Barkauskas has degrees in mathematics (1953) and music composition (1959) from the University of Vilnius. He was one of the most active avant-garde composers in Lithuania in the 1960s, influenced by Krzysztof Penderecki, Witold Lutosławski and György Ligeti.
However he has now moved towards more intuitively arranged sounds, striving to create naturally beautiful music, writing more chamber music. "I do not restrict myself to any single, defined compositional system, but am constantly searching for a natural stylistic synthesis. I strive to make my music expressive, emotional and of a concerto type", Barkauskas says.
His works have been performed at international festivals, competitions and concerts in various European, American and Asian countries, and have been interpreted by Gidon Kremer, Lothar Faber, Yuri Bashmet, David Geringas, Joachim Greiner, Juozas Domarkas, Raimundas Katilius, Ruth Palmer and others.
Vytautas Barkauskas is a winner of the Lithuanian State Prize. In 2000 his "Journey of the Princess. Fairy Tale", Op. 114 was awarded the prize at the composers' competition dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis. His symphonic piece entitled "At the End is the Beginning", Op. 115 was awarded the prize at the "Sinfonia Baltica" International Composers' Competition in 2001. In 2003 the composer was awarded the Lithuanian National Award. In 2005 he won the prize for the best chamber work ("Echoes" for percussion solo) at the composers' competition organized by the Lithuanian Composers' Union.