Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

This disc can still be obtained intermittently via

Peteris VASKS (b.1946)
Cantabile for string orchestra (1979) [8.19]
Cor Anglais Concerto (1989) [20.01]
Message for string orchestra, percussion and two pianos (1982) [14.57]
Musica Dolorosa for string orchestra (1983) [12.38]
Lauda (1986) [20.27]
Riga Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Krišs Rusmanis
rec. Riga, Latvia, 24-27 May 1994. DDD
CONIFER CLASSICS CDCF 236 - 75605 51236 2 [76.43]

.This disc comes from the first Latvian recording session John Kehoe arranged with Vasks. Kehoe had been captivated by three one hour programmes co-ordinated by Kriss Rusmanis on BBC Radio 3 in 1992. The crop of Conifer recordings was the result.

Vasks is rarely forbidding. However this collection stresses his accessible style. The Cantabile for strings rises, as so often with Vasks, from nothing and cloaks the skyscape with high cycling strings buzzing in blessèd polyphony. The ecstatic release sought by Vasks is comparable with that of Tippett in the Double Concerto. It is stripped of all density and obfuscation - a cooling Barber adagio. Given that the icily avant-garde First String Quartet was written in 1975 it is a surprise that only four years later he was writing music of such eloquent directness of expression.

The Cor Anglais Concerto came about as a result of a commission from Thomas Stacy, cor anglais of the NYPO. It is in four movements of which two are Elegies. The first elegy glances towards Sibelius's Swan of Tuonela. It has a bleached regretful tone as also does the second elegy (tr.4). The finale has aleatoric elements. It is noble and the composer fixes things so that an oriental tone rises clear. The cor anglais is most touchingly played by Normunds Schnee.

Message is dark-hued initially and unusually tense. Once again whispered violin glissandi play their part. The string orchestra smoothness is contrasted with quiet flittering and flickering playing from the two pianos and punctuation from a varied percussion battery. The quiet string writing is like an extrapolation of the whispering violin lines in Sibelius's Luonnotar. This builds into a strangely exultant peroration.

Musica dolorosa is for strings and solo cello. It is a sustained lament. It was dedicated to Vasks' sister who died shortly before the piece was written. Its dolorous aspect is also down to the bleak politics of the time. Vasks who describes himself as a sad optimist usually offsets quiet tragedy with consolatory voices. Not so here. The intensity of the threnody takes us very close to Pettersson in the last few moments of this 12 minute piece.

Lauda dates from 1985 and is a song of praise to the Latvian nation. It was written in the year of the 150th anniversary of Krisjanis Baarons who had collected thousands of Latvian folksongs. The piece plays for just over twenty minutes. It is in seven sections some of which are aleatory. After an introduction which is rather akin to a refrigerated Barber adagio comes an optimism-soaked hymnal which rises to some extremely forthright writing for ragingly triumphant brass. This again rises to a paean of activity and praise with much percussion and with searching writing for violins. As the victory dissipates birdsong can be heard like that in Sibelius's Nightride and Sunrise alongside quiet pattering percussion as in Hovhaness's Moss Garden.

Rob Barnett


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