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Andris DZENĪTIS (b. 1978)
Preludium. Light for symphony orchestra (2011) [9:12]
String Quartet No. 1 Trataka. Point Noir (2012) [11:08]
Om, Lux Aeterna for choir (2012) [9:52]
E(GO), Concerto for saxophone and orchestra (2012) [25:10]
Postludium. Ice for symphony orchestra (2009) [13:54]
Arvydas Kazlauskas (saxophone)
Latvian Radio Choir
Silesian String Quartet
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken-Kaiserslautern*, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Karel Mark Chichon, Kaspars Putniņš, Normunds Šnē
rec. live, 2009-2014
Latvian Composers series
SKANI LMIC040 [69:11]

Latvian composer Andris Dzenītis was born in Riga and over the years has been a pupil of Magnus Lindberg, Osvaldas Balakauskas, Peteris Plakidis, Kurt Schwertsik and Peteris Vasks. He has written in pretty well all media: opera, music for cinema and theatre, orchestral pieces (although nothing called 'symphony'), a cello concerto (1995-96), chamber music and electronic music as well as music for children. He tends to favour titled pieces rather than the standard classical formats: do not go looking for sonatas or symphonies although he has weighed in with at least one string quartet and two concertos.

This collection of five comparatively recent and fairly brief works presents each in a single track. They comprise three for, or with, orchestra, one for choir and one for string quartet.

Preludium. Light for symphony orchestra has an imposing air, with a complex ringing shimmer of sound suggesting the light of the title. Why 'Preludium'? - it is of overture duration, so it fits. The music combines the declamatory with a mobile lustrous effect. The rasping String Quartet No. 1 Trataka. Point Noir assaults the attention in a demand that will not be denied. A long-sustained rasping cyclical effect resolves into a cauldron of spiky, chittering and excoriating sound. Beauty is clearly not the object here. The quartet fades hauntingly into something that is quiet but not calm. Dzenītis is here insisting on the listener's attention but is not about to seduce your ears. It's given a virtuoso performance by the Silesian String Quartet who are recorded at very close quarters.

The choral Om, Lux Aeterna makes play with slow slaloming Pendereckian ululation. The composer must be well pleased that he has the elite Latvian Radio Choir at his disposal for such a testing work. The E(GO) Saxophone Concerto is the most extended work here. A cool, emotional temperature is at first maintained amid a diaphanous web of sound. The solo instrument is quite prominent and the music becomes more passionately turbulent. One has the sense of the saxophone as an iconoclast - a fomenter of insurrection. However, whether subjugated or confident in victory the music coasts towards a reflective quietus. It ends in a single bell-stroke and a single orchestral shudder. Postludium. Ice is related to Dzenītis' full-length opera Dauka. As he says in the notes, this magnificent work forms both a postlude to Dauka and a framework for or epitome of that work. If he had called this a Symphony no one would have blinked. It has that inescapable logical trajectory and a heroic bearing to match. For me it stands tall among its companions on this disc.

There is a thoughtful essay by the composer who addresses the generalities and the specifics of these five works. The booklet is in English and Latvian.

In no sense is this music neo-romantic or post-modern. Dzenītis, as he speaks through these scores, does not have melody as his object or even as the pathway towards his artistic gaols. He can however grasp and express majesty and this is heard to the finest advantage in the quite magnificent Postludium. Ice - a work that has a symphonic spirit if not a symphonic name. Dzenītis' concerns are modernist and the music is dissonant if not brutally so.

Rob Barnett



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