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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Peteris VASKS (b.1946)
String Quartets; No. 1 (revised version) (1977-1997) [15.33]; No. 2 Summer Tunes; No.3 (1995) [25.02];
Miami String Quartet
rec. Purchase College, NY City, 211-23 May 1998. DDD
CONIFER CLASSICS 75605 51334 2 [66.25]


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This disc features world premiere recordings of quartets 1 and 3. The Third is in four movements and deploys Vasks’ stimulating and purely presented soundworld. This takes an icy feeling of plainchant and has much in the way of stark lithe activity. The pianissimo chitterings and slaloming of the violins in the finale is his closest approach to the avant-garde but even then the 'glue' is a slow-stepping plainchant melody. The ending personifies the stillness of nocturnal Nordic skies.

That was 1995. Vasks' world was very different in 1977 as is announced by the fifteen minute First Quartet which uses an aggressive aleatory approach and Penderecki-like slides and ululation. Whether or not this is intended as music of protest and desperation it certainly strikes me that way. Healing comfort comes in the Melodia finale in whose almost prayerful peace and stuttered benediction we glimpse the very best of Vasks. His music stands understandably high in the international stakes alongside that of Pärt (Cantus) and Macmillan.

The Second Quartet is in three titled movements. The work, overall, bears the title Summer Tunes. The glissandi of the first movement Coming Into Bloom recall those beloved of Hovhaness (Fra Angelico overture) and return in the Elegy. Birds preserves the glissandi but has the blessing of bird chatter as well. Elegy reminds me of Geoffrey Burgon's chamber music in its interjections and anxiety.

John Kehoe of the ill-fated Conifer label provides a very personal booklet note reminding us how Vasks' voice and that of many Latvians had been stifled during the long years of Soviet rule.

A sometimes astringent view into the world of Peteris Vasks. His world-view seems almost religious but his is the religion of open spaces, solitude and nature - a pantheism only occasionally disrupted by anxiety.

Rob Barnett

 



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