Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Rigas Kamermuziki: Music by Latvian Composers of the Twentieth Century - The Nineties
Maija EINFELDE (b.1939) Three Sea Songs for oboe, french horn and string orchestra (1995) [16.44]
Peteris PLAKIDIS (b.1947) Songs for the Wind and the Blood for mezzo and string orchestra (1991) [10.51]
Gustavs FRIDRIHSONS (b.1976) Kleine Passion - variations on a ground (1994-96) [26.00]
Rolands KRONLAKS (b.1973) Under Pressure for chamber orchestra (1996) [8.24]
Riga Chamber Players/ Normunds Šnē
rec. 1997/8, Riga Recording Studio. DDD
BRIZE BRCD 001 [64.44]

Maija Einfelde was a pupil of Jānis Ivanovs (whose symphonies are slowly being issued by Campion). Her compositions have attracted international prizes. Her chamber oratorio, At the edge of the earth won the Barlow Competition in the USA in 1997. Three Sea Songs is a work in which the dominant sound is that of the string orchestra in full flight. Sometimes the work grates and grinds in rhythmic violence related to The Rite of Spring. At other times there is a modernised Sibelian tenderness accentuated by the use of horn and oboe. The oboist is Uldis Urbāns; the french horn player, Viesturs Vardaunis. Desolation and balm balance each other but balm, albeit tinged with ambiguity, rounds out this impressive single movement piece.

The sturdy-voiced yet mood-responsive mezzo in the Plakidis work is familiar from the Bis collection of works by Arturs Maskats (CD-1146). Antra Bigača sings the three songs. Here she is recorded much more closely than in Maskats' Salve. Her shaded voice encompasses theatrical climaxes as well as inwardness. The string writing is melodramatic and full of allusions linking with the unbridled violent then exhausted sensuality of the poems by Astride Ivaska. Imagine, as a parallel, the wilder excitement of the full string orchestra in Finzi's Dies Natalis, small rushing note-cells and the roughened surgingly majestic lyricism of Sibelius's Luonnotar.

Plakidis was the teacher of Gustavs Fridrihsons, the composer of the seven movement Kleine Passion for string orchestra. The Riga Chamber Players are the dedicatees of this work which relates to Bach's St John's Passion. This is extremely dour, stern and restrained even in the musing viola solo of Peter's Arioso (tr.7). On this showing Fridrihsons is much more clearly in touch with Darmstadt and Berg than the first two works on this disc.

Kronlaks is in much the same position although his music has greater surface dazzle. Rushing incidents, dissonance and discontinuity proclaim Kronlaks' uncompromising credentials. These are traced through his academic training at Enschede (David Rowland), Mexico City (Franco Donatoni) and IRCAM.

All in all this CD reflects two artistic streams in Latvia's musical life. These are Einfelde and Plakidis speaking for the lyrical and imaginative, accessible yet far from bland and at the other extremity Fridrihsons and Kronlaks articulate rites variously administered by Boulez, Henze and Frankel. Einfelde and Plakidis were born in the 1930s and 1940s; Fridrihsons and Kronlaks are children of the 1970s.

This is not the sort of disc you are that likely to encounter outside Riga although perhaps Records International could help. Alternatively please contact me and I will put you in touch with the conductor Normunds Šnē.

The booklet is in Latvian and English and is thankfully fairly detailed. The font is rather slender but only a moderate obstacle for those of us who are sight-challenged.

Rob Barnett

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