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VASKS (b. 1946)
arr. 2002) [16:48]
Cantus ad pacem (1984)
Canto di forza (2005,
arr. 2006) [13:49]
Musica seria (1988)
Te Deum (1991) [12:11]
rec. Riga Cathedral, December 2006 and St. Gertrude’s Church,
Riga, January 2007 (Te Deum)
is not overabundant but it may be a surprise to some that
he has composed such a substantial output for organ. That
said, two of these pieces are arrangements of works composed
for other instrumental forces. Viator (2001) was
originally written for strings and is – by far – the best
known work here since it has recently been recorded twice,
on BIS-CD-1150 and WERGO WER 6705 2, both recently reviewed
here. Canto di forza (2005) was composed for the
twelve cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic.
enough this well-filled disc opens with Viatore.
This should have been the perfect teaser, were it not for
the rather slow tempos adopted. Deksnis’ reading plays for almost seventeen minutes
compared to fifteen minutes (Swedish Chamber Orchestra
on BIS) and sixteen minutes and a half (Sinfonietta Riga
conducted by Normunds Šnē on WERGO). Even so, the
music transfers fairly well to the organ although much
of the Pärt-like tintinnabuli figurations are a
bit lost. Let’s stick with the original version for strings.
much earlier Cantus ad pacem was composed at about
the same time as Vēstijums (“Message” – Strings,
percussion and two pianos – 1982) and Lauda (1986).
The music refers to that heard in these and other later
pieces: hymn-like episodes and bird-song. These are the
elements one has come to regard as typical Vasks fingerprints.
The music alternates fairly simple textures and cluster-like,
aggressive harmonies in such a way as to suggest “real
and ideal visions”. It builds to an apocalyptic climax,
slows down and then proceeds to a grand hymn-like peroration
without achieving any real resolution.
seria was written in 1988 “when the Baltic states were beginning to fight
for their independence” (the composer’s words). It is
thus not surprising if the overall mood and tone of the
music is quite different from that both in the preceding
and following works. It opens with “an insistent downward-moving
motif” over an ostinato in the bass - actually drawn
from a chamber cantata Latvija of 1987. The mood
is considerable more uneasy and troubled. The pervasive
ominous darkness is briefly dispelled by thunderous clusters. “Quietly
but not to be silenced”, the work concludes with a beautiful,
ethereal coda. “If I had to imagine Musica seria in
visual form, it would be as a sky full of dark and heavy
thunderclouds with a thin band of light on the horizon” (Vasks).
This comment might apply to many of Vasks’ works indeed,
not least his Violin Concerto Distant Light.
few years ago I reviewed a disc (“From the Golden Treasury
of Latvian Organ Music” – MANSCD LCLA 026) in which Vasks’ Te
Deum (1991) was included. That very piece struck me
as one of his most optimistic pieces … and it still does.
The bright assertive introduction leads into a first main
section described by the composer as a prayer. The second
main hymn-like section opens with a fugue and develops
into a song of praise. The final coda is “peaceful and
subdued, yet full of light”.
already mentioned earlier in this review, Canto di forza was
composed for the cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic. The
arrangement for organ is dedicated to Deksnis, as was that
of Viatore. The work opens calmly in meditative
mood, again hymn-like in character. The music then gains
in momentum and reaches a first climax after which it slowly
subsides, paving the way for a section climaxing in a glorious
paean of praise before subsiding again. Brief restatements
of earlier material are brought into the final confident
my slight reservations concerning Deksnis’ tempos in Viatore,
I have only praise and admiration for his superbly committed
performances. All are caught in very fine recorded sound,
which makes this generously filled release a must for all
Vasks fans. It should also draw in those who relish accessible,
expressive and communicative music. This is a magnificent
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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