This disc came to me in a plain liner with titles and timing. Nothing else.
In many ways this did me a favour as I was left only with the impressions
taken in through my fallible ears.
Vasks Tala Gaisma is an (almost) half hour concerto for violin and
a big string orchestra. The violin part is played for all it's worth in juicy
virtuosity and religious meditation. In fact Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia
seems to be a not-too-distant forebear. The meditative side often rises
and floats into Lark ascendant heights. The quieter musical glories of this
piece glow in molten floods beneath the scorched scar tissue of a Nordic
landscape. Other string masterpieces are also hinted at: Finzi
(Introit, Prelude, Romance) and Barber's Adagio.
There are passionate flourishes (10.48), a folk dance (hinting at the Sibelius
violin concerto), a central cadenza, Tippettian grandeur (Concerto for
Double String Orchestra) and at 14.01 Shostakovich-like stabbing figures
(17.48). Fury and threnody thread their way through these pages in a rite
encompassing the wildly choleric and hushed poignant repose. The single span
of music ends in an evocation of trembling ionospheric silence.
The tripartite Stimmen is of a piece with Tala Gaisma in mood.
Think of it as a symphony for strings. Sibelius is a strong but not suffocating
presence. The writing is an evolution from Tuonela, Symphony No. 6
and Valse Triste with nothing of the salon about it. Time steps slowly
and reverentially through Stimmen der Stille in a theme which shadows
Josef Suk's Meditation. The music rises and falls almost imperceptibly
in a long span. The movement also reminds me of Arvo Pärt's In
Memoriam. The more invigorating Stimmen Des Lebens is goaded on
by rapturously chaffing birdsong and the final Stimmen des Gewissens
(Voices of Conscience) returns to the 'Suk theme' alternating with
insect-clouds and waves of sound. The ending is all floating stratospheric
Vasks is one of those Baltic Scandinavians who are at last receiving something
approaching their due. Against this background I hope that others such as
Balakauskas and Janis Ivanovs (celebrated in a bounteous series from Campion
- I can provide details) will not be forgotten. On the evidence of this disc
Vasks is a distinctive Scandinavian romantic who writes in accessible but
not facile melody. I mention the names of other composers for 'aural
triangulation' purposes. If you enjoy the music I have mentioned you will
enjoy the Vasks works on this disc. This music is amongst the finest string
music produced during the twentieth century. I enthusiastically commend this