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Pēteris Vasks: Plainscapes
Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Kļava
This CD presents a cross section of a cappella choral works by Cannes Classical-awarded composer Pēteris Vasks (b. 1946), performed by the acclaimed Latvian Radio Choir under the direction of Sigvards Kļava.
Following on from their successful recording of liturgical Vasks compositions (“Beautifully performed, a rare outing for Vask’s choral music” – Gramophone ‘recommends’), the Latvian Radio Choir once again draws on the Baltic countries’ extraordinary choir music tradition, focusing here on secular repertoire.
The title piece on this disc is Plainscapes, written in 2002 for mixed choir, violin and cello on commission from Gidon Kremer. Meditating on the inspiring beauty of the Latvian lowlands, it uses vocalises to celebrate nature’s cyclic miracles.
Birth (2008) for choir and percussion pays tribute to the sun as a symbol for life.
“Intensity and integrity are the hallmarks of Vasks's style...The most compelling piece is the album's title-track, Plainscapes...Although almost too harrowingly beautiful to listen to, I do recommend this magical piece, which together with its companions is performed with consummate perfection by this outstanding body of singers.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012
“this, the second volume from Ondine, focuses on superb performances by the Latvian Radio Choir of the secular side of his trance-inducing, largely homophonic four-part compositions, regarded by Vasks himself as 'food for the soul'...The newest work here, Birth (2008), for mixed choir and percussion, is likely to send Vasks fans into ecstasies of delight” BBC Music Magazine, December 2012 ****
(also available to download from $10.50)
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Bryars - Glorious Hill
Latvian Radio Choir, Kaspars Putnins & Sigvards Klava
“Gavin Bryars's music and the special qualities of the Latvian Radio Choir fit one another like hand and glove. And the glorious acoustic of Riga Cathedral lends its aura to his CadmanRequiem and two 13th-century chants (the latter chosen because they relate to, and effectively offset, the three Bryars Laude).
All this music has a restrained purity that never admits suspicions of opportunism, in the way some work in this spiritual minimalist field does.
There is more floridity to Eriks Ešenvalds's Legend of the Walled-up Woman, but this too feels like part of the natural voice of the music and its subject matter. Only in Peteris Vasks's Zilis zina does the impression surface of special effects for special effects' sake. And even that can be taken as an effective vehicle for this remarkable choir to display the full range of its talents.
Bryars's 12-minute Glorious Hill, which lends its title to this generously filled disc, sets a marvellous Italian Renaissance text that imagines God addressing Adam as He confers free will on mankind. Even more powerful in its inspiration and consistent in its focus is the CadmanRequiem, composed in memory of a friend killed in the 1988 Lockerbie disaster. In this new version with organ rather than strings or viols, the music is utterly gripping, and affinities with the Fauré Requiem stand out in ways not previously registered. Overall then, an eminently collectable disc, beautifully sung and recorded from first note to last.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“This is not only a musically distinguished, but also a cleverly plotted album. Contemporary and early works jostle and juxtapose. So one can marvel at the transcendent purity of Gavin Bryars’s depiction of God giving free will to mankind, then hear the shattering aftermath of that decision in his remembrance of the Lockerbie attack, Cadman Requiem...an eminently collectable disc, beautifully sung and recorded from first note to last.” Gramophone Magazine
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Kamer... Dawn is Breaking
Latvian Choral Music
Gidon Kremer & Marta Sudraba
Altera Veritas Ensemble & Kamer..., Maris Sirmais
The youth choir Kamer... was founded in 1990 on the initiative of conductor Maris Sirmais, who is still the artistic director and principal conductor. Kamer... now includes about seventy young singers, Among the choir’s top honours is the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing (Goriza, Italy, 2004). Kamer... was the first Latvian choir to win this prize. The competition is organized by the six most prestigious international choral competitions in Europe.
Kamer… has worked with some of the world’s leading musicians in concerts and festivals in Latvia and abroad. They have sung alongside Gidon Kremer, who appears on this album and the KREMERata Baltica under the noted conductor and soloist Peter Schreier, as well as violists Yuri Bashmet and Maxim Rysanov, cellist Julius Berger, and many others. The choir has also participated in personal concerts for the composers Arvo Pärt, Giya Kanchelli and Peteris Vasks. In 2006 Kamer... performed in a concert at Latvia’s National Opera House in Riga for a meeting of NATO Heads of State.
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Peteris Vasks: Cantabile
Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Pauls Megi, Tovijs Lifsics
Peteris Vasks was born in Aizpute, Latvia, the son of a church minister. He studied the double bass and composition in Riga and Vilnius, among others with Valentius Utkins, and was a member of various symphony and chamber orchestras. He currently is a free-lance composer living in Riga.
Among the works of Vasks, his compositions for string orchestra are of particular importance. With the help of several works scored for strings, the CD on hand imparts comprehensive knowledge of the development that Vasks has undergone since the last 70's.
Vasks wrote in the introduction to his symphony "Stimmen" [Voices]:
"At the end of 1990 I had begun to write the symphony. Then came January 1991. Blood was flowing in the streets of Latvia and Lithuania. Sleepless nights at the barricades. After all that, the new beginning was difficult. The symphony speaks of my essential, most meaningful themes. About life. About eternity. About conscience. I wrote it with love and faith."
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