Several, now sadly
deleted Conifer discs did much to
help me gain a better idea of Vasks’
achievement. An earlier Wergo CD
with some of his works for string
orchestra (WER 6220 2) provided
my first contact with his music.
From then on I was "hooked".
Now, here comes a new Wergo disc
with more of his music including
a somewhat lesser-known piece of
his: Musica adventus.
In fact, Musica adventus
is an arrangement for string orchestra
of the Third String Quartet of 1995
- once recorded by the Miami String
Quartet on Conifer
75605 51334 2 (nla). The title
of the version for string orchestra
("Advent Music") seems
to be an afterthought since no particular
programme is mentioned in the insert
notes accompanying the quartet recording,
although it might have been at the
back of the composer’s mind when
composing the work. The hymn-like
character of some of the thematic
material in the first movement and
of its restatement at the height
of the fourth movement might – to
a certain extent – justifies or
explains the title of the orchestral
version. Anyway, this may not be
of much importance in one’s appreciation
of this vintage Vasks. The first
movement functions as a prelude
leading into the vigorous rustic
dance of the second movement. The
heart of the work, though, is the
substantial third movement - a long
lyrical and at times impassioned
meditation. The fourth movement
opens with an aleatoric passage
evoking birdsong - a typical Vasks
hallmark. The hymn-like nature of
the main theme - reminiscent of
that in the first movement - is
interrupted twice by another dance-like
episode, the repeat of which almost
degenerates into panic. A final
restatement of the chorale surrounded
by chirrups brings the work to its
appeased close. There is not much
to choose between these versions
of the work, although the scoring
for full string orchestra adds volume
and weight, particularly in the
rustic dance of the second movement.
Some time ago (actually
in September 2004), I reviewed another
recording of Viatore.
This was by the Swedish Chamber
Orchestra conducted by Katarina
Andreasson who was also the soloist
in the Violin Concerto (BIS-CD-1150).
It was composed as a homage to Arvo
Pärt, whose music is clearly
to be heard in the course of the
piece. A clear allusion to Pärt’s
Cantus functions as
a ritornello throughout the piece.
Much else however is typical Vasks.
It is a fine work that should be
heard as often as Barber’s ubiquitous
nē, who conducts Sinfonietta
Riga in this programme, is also
the soloist in Vasks’ Concerto
per corno inglese ed orchestra.
He also recorded that piece several
years ago with the Riga Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by Krišs Rusmanis
75605 51236 2 nla). The lay-out
is not unlike that of Musica
adventus. The first and
third movements (Elegy I and Elegy
II) are slow and song-like in character
whereas the second (Folk Music)
again suggests a kind of rustic
dance with a clear folk-like flavour.
The fourth movement (Postlude) is
an evocation of nature with some
aleatoric passages suggesting birdsong
and the rustling of wind and leaves.
The music eventually dissolves into
thin air. Vasks’ Cor Anglais Concerto
is a splendid work and a worthy
addition to the rather limited repertoire
for cor anglais - still a rather
neglected but beautiful instrument.
There is not much to choose between
the two recordings, the more so
given that the soloist is the same.
The earlier recording is in any
event no longer available. It seems
to me that Šnē
the conductor tends to favour somewhat
slower tempi both in this and in
nevertheless keeping the music moving.
This is a magnificent
and beautifully produced release
with carefully prepared and committed
performances of some of Vasks’ finest
music. It never fails to convince
thanks to its honesty and sincerity.