FROM INTERNATIONAL RECORD
Violin Concertoa. Cello Concertob. Symphonic
(violin); bAgnese Rugevica (cello); cJanis Zilbers
(piano); Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Terje
Simax Classics PSC1213
(full price, 1 hour 13 minutes).
Producer Erik Gard Amundsen. Engineer Karlis Pinnis. Date April, June,
October 1999. Further information about Kalsons is available from
Romualds Kalsons is a Latvian composer, born in 1936, and one of the most
prominent figures of the generation preceding that of the better-known Peteris
Vasks. Kalsons's life has evolved around Riga. He studied there, at the Latvian
National Conservatory (renamed the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music
since Latvia regained its independence) - composition under Adolfs Skulte,
conducting with Jazeps Lindbergs. He has taught at his Alma Mater since 1973;
in 1988 he was awarded a chair in composition and since 1990 has been head
of composition. If you want to learn more about him, look at the website
listed above. OK, so it's in Latvian, but the list of Kalsons's major
compositions won't present you with any difficulty.
Kalsons's style emerges naturally from that of Prokofiev and Shostakovich:
biting, shot through with piquant dissonance, scored with the same emphasis
on contrasted treble and bass, at the expense of softer middle-range sonorities.
The Russian heritage is coloured with a surprising oriental streak - with
its innocence regained, my ear might have guessed the composer was Armenian
or from somewhere else in ex-Soviet Middle Asia. There's not a hint of false
sentiment in the music; instead, the prevailing mood is of strong-willed
irony, even grotesquerie here and there, borne forward on a tide of muscular
orchestral invention, often contrapuntally derived - the finale of the Cello
Concerto (1970), for example, both perky and dark, blends passacaglia and
fugue. The Violin Concerto and Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra,
both from 1978, are contrasting cousins, the concerto expansive, bright and
playful (the solo part made more prominent through the absence of orchestral
violins), the variations more closely focused, less concerned with colour.
This is, by my reckoning, the third recording to be made for Simax by the
Latvian National Symphony Orchestra under its genial new chief conductor,
the Norwegian Terje Mikkelsen (hence, I imagine, the Oslo-Riga axis that
brings out Latvian music on a Norwegian label). I detected a hint of hesitancy
in the attack on their first Simax project together, two discs of the stage
music of Johan Halvorsen - glorious music all the same. Here, on home ground,
the Latvians pitch in with enthusiasm and aplomb: there's real commitment
in their playing, which Mikkelsen converts into a genuine symphonic
élan. The soloists are likewise plainly passionate about what
they are doing, with techniques to match.
Simax provides a good, clean recording with plenty of body and there are
informative notes from Ilona Brege. Definitely worth investigation.
This review will appear in the October issue of International Record