Think of Darzins as a Baltic Roger Quilter but with
a stronger lyric talent. This disc celebrates his 125th anniversary
with a selection of songs, choral items and one orchestral piece.
We start with the solid, vibrant and blazing unison
singing of the male voice choir in To Homeland Dear. It is rather
like the paean in Finlandia. In Distant Reveries the deep
basses singing ppp at the end of the piece act as a delightful
counterpoint to women's voices. The lulling bass growl at the end of
Moonbeams shooting softly contrasts with the blazing intensity
of the mixed voices in Broken Pines. The radiance of the women's
voices is remarkable. Is it a quality peculiar to the Nordic and Baltic
countries? The songs for solo voice and piano touch the worlds of Onegin,
the salon. Delius (listen to L. Daine in track 16, Leaving You)
and Russian romance.
The only orchestral track is the last one: the affecting
Melancholy Waltz, played with great tenderness by the Latvian
State SO conducted by L. Vigners. This can crudely be compared with
Sibelius's Valse Triste but with a lighter heart. It is, on occasions,
very close to Tchaikovsky with tints from the woodwind writing in Sibelius's
King Christian II. I was also reminded of the guileless Lesghinka
from Khachaturyan's Gayane. The beautifully calculated
fade into silence is done with wonderful dignity. It is only ignorance
that prevents this piece from joining the orchestral pops repertoire
of the Hallé or Boston.
The disc comprises eleven choral tracks, ten solo songs
with piano and a single six and a half minute orchestral piece. Apart
from Resignation (tr 17, 4.50) and the Waltz the longest of the
22 tracks is 3.39 and the shortest 1.20.
The words are, of course, sung in Latvian. None of
them are printed in the booklet; not even in the original Latvian. The
brief notes are in Latvian and English.
These recordings are not in the first flush of youth,
being taken from the sound archives of Latvia Radio and Riga Recording
Studio. That however need not worry you if you are ready for a surprising
anthology of laid-back Baltic romance - elusively sad; subtly joyous.
This would make an ideal and unusual Christmas album.