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Music for Winds by Latvian Composers
Pēteris PLAKIDIS (1947-2017)
Two Sketches for oboe solo (1975) [5:01]
Prelude and Pulsation, for wind quintet (1975) [6:47]
Interplay, Concerto for soloist group and orchestra (1977) [18:18]
Pēteris VASKS (b.1946)
Music For Fleeting Birds for wind quintet (1977) [7:49]
In Memory of a Friend for wind quintet (1982) [10:25]
Artūrs GRĪNUPS (1931-1989)
Three Visions for wind quintet (1976) [9:14]
Imants ZEMZARIS (b.1951)
Four Preludes on an Alfrēds Kalniņš Theme for wind quintet (1981) [12:53]
Rihards DUBRA (b.1964)
Lux Aeterna for saxophone quartet (2003) [9:44]
Indra RIŠE (b.1961)
Interaction for flute and organ (1999) [15:50]
Rolands KRONLAKS (b.1973)
Ice Age for clarinet solo (2007) [7:07]
Eriks EŠENVALDS (b.1977)
Impressions of Saaremaa for clarinet and cello (Pensieroso [5:40]
Loneliness of the Junipers [2:27]
The Sea and the Cliffs [4:06]) (1999) [12:13]
Santa RATNIECE (b.1977)
Seven Steps for clarinet quintet (2000) [7:07]
Marina GRIBINČIKA (b.1966)
Concerto for Oboe and Chamber Orchestra Voyager (2006) [11:17]
rec. Latvia, 1976-2008
SKANI LMIC016 [70:31 + 63:21]

This two-CD anthology cuts a selective swathe through Latvia's classical music for wind instruments over the period from 1975 to 2007.

Of the Two Sketches for solo oboe by Pēteris Plakidis the first is a cool and musing Rubato. It's companion, the Poco vivo, proceeds charmingly in little clucks, flurries and chuckles. His Prelude and Pulsation for wind quintet has a more dissonant cut-glass edginess. The Prelude mixes chaste musings with clashing note-centres. Pulsation is at first easier to digest. It steps out with a will but soon becomes complex.

Pēteris Vasks' Music for Fleeting Birds and In Memory of a Friend are more wild, woolly and modernistic than Plakidis. Each tends towards sometimes dramatic changes in tempo, subject or dynamic. In Memory of a Friend alternates nervy blurted-out defiance with gentle, plangent and lyrical waters. Music for Fleeting Birds can be thought of as a self-possessed cousin under-the-skin to Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus although it is a tougher work and one given to some pretty dissonant extremes. Vasks has taken a close interest in birds and ecology and this occasionally angular piece is part of that stream of inspiration.

Artūrs Grīnups - already the subject of one of LMIC's portrait discs including symphonies 3 and 9 - is represented by his Three Visions. This work, in three tracks, is a product of the mid-1970s when Grīnups tended to work in chamber groupings rather than full orchestra. The music is by turns desolate and melancholy, inwardly musing and then cheery, in a rather uptight Malcolm Arnold shanty manner.

Imants Zemzaris's Four Preludes on a Theme by Alfrēds Kalniņš is for wind quintet. This is slow-blooming, affable and amiable. Three smiling Allegrettos precede a slightly cooler and questing Andante. All in all, in this performance, this is intelligent and only lightly challenging music-making.

The disc ends with Plakidis's two-movement 18-minute concerto for 'soloist group' and orchestra. This opens with the solo clarinet 'speaking' at some length. This makes way for a succession of little panels, each spirited, self-contained and not dependent on its neighbours. Many are islands of bright-eyed hustle-bustle activity. The music is lively, not dissonant, and enjoys a pellucid clarity. There's some debt to Stravinsky along the way.

The second disc opens proceedings with the prize of the set, Rihards Dubra's Lux Aeterna for saxophone quartet. This composer combines the influences of minimalism with Gregorian chant. You can hear both in this little piece which is never-overheated yet casts a quick spell. There's certainly minimalism in the initial sustained chatter of the flute and a straight-speaking kinship with Michael Nyman's Where The Bee Dances. This is a really heart-conquering piece which I can see appealing to any young saxophonist. The way is open for saxophonists of the international calibre of Jess Gillam.
Indra Riše's awed Interaction for flute and organ operates at a low temperature and at first quietly. The distanced recording perspective accentuates that effect. About half way through the organ takes on gothic gargantuan rhetoric. This piece has been written under the influence of Georg Franck's words: "… there is nothing that does not unceasingly move with the flow of time." Interaction - a rather cold title - ends in quietude as it began. Riše has lived in both Denmark and Latvia.
Rolands Kronlaks' Ice Age is a questing, halting and faltering clarinet solo. A more humane aspect could have been cut by Eriks Ešenvalds' Impressions of Saaremaa - a triptych for clarinet and cello. In fact, it is uncompromising, motoric, angular and with some geiser-like updraughts. The music of UNESCO-award winning Santa Ratniece was unknown to me until I heard an LMIC disc of four of her choral works. Her Seven Steps for clarinet quintet can be both moody and glum with some magically poised islets of calm among the crags. As it proceeds it becomes more fixated on a supple melody which provides the curve along which the score finds its final silence.
Marina Gribinčika's Oboe Concerto Voyager is among the more recent scores in this collection. Its inventive modernity is never in doubt but neither is its succinctness. It has winning ways. The oboe, after introducing itself in a vinegary light, soon settles into its role as the singer although this keeps being subverted by a scored tendency to solo abrasion and harshness. What I can only describe as 'jungle sounds' hem in the solo line and quiet upsweeping cells from the violins recall the music of Alan Hovhaness.

This disc overlaps slightly in repertoire with a single CD LMIC product: Skani 050.

The useful liner notes are by Inara Jakubone and are in Latvian and English. They provide context for the music and the composers. There are also profiles of the host of performers whose permission to allow their work to be shared with the wider world is surely appreciated.

Plenty to challenge the ear here but even among the more thorny choices there are enclaves of melody or fascination.

Rob Barnett

Imants Sneibis (flute); Vilnis Strautins (flute); Vilnis Pelnens (oboe); Normunds Sne (oboe); Guntis Kuzma (clarinet); Česlavs Grods (clarinet); Agnese Argale (piccolo flute); Alfreds Neimanis (bass clarinet); Arvids Klisans (french horn); Baiba Jūrmale (cello); Ligita Sneibe (organ)
Clarinet Quartet "Contraverso"; Wind Quintet of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra Ensemble; Wind Quintet of the Latvian National Symphony; Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Vassily Sinaisky; Rova Saxophone Quartet Ensemble; Sinfonietta Riga Chamber Ensemble; Riga Saxophone Quartet



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