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
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.
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.