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Petēris PLAKIDIS (b. 1947)
Music for Piano, Strings and Timpani (1969) [21:14]
Songs for the Wind and Blood (1991) [10:58]
Concerto for Two Oboes and Strings (1982) [10:59]
Concerto-Ballad for Two Violins and Strings (1984) [16:41]
Pēteris Plakidis (piano)

Antra Bigača (mezzo)

Uldis Urbāns (oboe); Vilnis Pelnēns (oboe)
Andris Pauls (violin); Dzintars Beitāns (violin)

Riga Chamber Players/Normunds Šnē
rec. Reformation Church, 12-16 February 1999. DDD
first recordings on CD

Sound Sample
Ending of Take me, o wind
Sound samples are removed after two months


Born in Riga, Plakidis studied with Çederts Ramanas, then that fine symphonist Jānis Ivanovs and also with Velantīns Utkins. The pillars of Plakidis's creativity are Baroque and Renaissance polyphony, traditional forms such as fugue and chaconne all interwoven with Latvian folk music.

Music for Piano, Strings and Timpani is ruminative, hints at grandeur and deploys Bachian arioso. It is never dull and creates the effect of a marmoreal Finzian tracery drizzled in gauzy dissonance. Along the way we hear a long piano solo which is steadily joined by solo violins and viola. The hectic music at 5:00 and 10:50 onwards ranges from jazzily manic to threatening akin to Panufnik. The music is also lent a faint overlay of Shostakovichian desolation. The piano rings out in violence over the finally triumphant yet still small voice of the strings.

The three songs are No one enters this forest, The dark waters of blood are flowing, Take me, O wind. The poems – typically for Toccata – are printed in full. The poet is Astrida Ivaska. The singer Antra Bigača develops a not unpleasant vibrato when singing loud. She has the sort of pliant dramatic voice one can imagine tackling Luonnotar. The poems are suggestive of the single-minded concentration of dreams. As you quickly come to expect from Plakidis the orchestra is used to theatrical advantage with strange moods and worlds etched with candid confidence. It's a pity that Bigača's awesome voice is sometimes toned down by the engineer at climactic points. Britten-like fanfares can be heard but with emotional expression very much evident - sample the last song which recalls Luonnotar.

The sensitive yet strong Double Oboe Concerto makes much more obvious use of folk-like melody. It's a single movement work barely longer than a concert overture. Its explosive bursts from the oboes provide piercing, carolling or birdsong solos - suggesting the use made by Terteryan of the duduk in his Third Symphony. Microphoning and acoustic make the effect towering and unflinchingly frank.

The Concerto-Ballad is also from the 1980s. It is the most potent work here with its intense evocation of grace in the face of dissonant catastrophe. Steely-eyed blasting anger exhilaratingly grates, recoils and serenades. There are echoes of both Shostakovich and Schnittke here amid a blessed pastoral contentment (14.02 and 14:50). Violence and hard-won reconciling tenderness are immanent in the wistful last three minutes of this unmissable piece.

Gratifyingly assertive and gritty recording.

The notes are by Leslie East with music examples. The booklet is in English, German and French.

Toccata are to be applauded for this refreshing and challenging collection. I hope that they will next tackle the music of Eduards Balsys.

Rob Barnett

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