PĒTERIS VASKS (b.1946): Concerto No. 2 for Cello and String Orchestra “Presence”(World Premiere Recording), Musique du Soir for Cello and Organ (w/ Irène Timacheff-Gabetta [organ]), The Book for Solo Cello.
Catalogue Number: 02R046
Label: Sony Classical
Description: The concerto is a recent work of considerable power and depth. The first movement opens with an extended cadenza, which introduces the work hesitantly and then gains in density, momentum and romantic expressiveness. When the orchestra joins in, it is with full-blooded romantic intensity and harmonic lushness, more reminiscent of the great cello concertos of the past - the Elgar in particular comes to mind - than the kind of 'spiritual minimalism' with which Vasks has previously been associated. There is in fact very little of that kind of thing in this piece - the language is very tonal, but without the emphasis on consoling consonance of 'new sprituality'; this music traverses much wider emotional territory. The middle movement is a propulsively motoric scherzo, reminiscent of Shostakovich, featuring a quite extraordinary amount of double stopping and chord playing for the soloist; here too a lengthy cadenza in similarly abrasive vein interrupts proceedings, but so do two brief lamenting episodes, 'trios' in the work's neo-romantic vein. For the adagio finale we return to the gloriously rich harmony and melody of the first movement, now gentler, with an air of resigned lamentation, striving toward hope; the mood is not unlike that of Barber's famous Adagio, to which Vasks almost seems to be making deliberate reference in places. The movement rises to a climax of searing intensity, suddenly cut off, after which it subsides into an ethereal tranquility, with a final, unexpectedly moving surprise that sounds like a prayer. Musique du soir is also a neo-romantic work, which begins as a gorgeous line of long-breathed cello melody with rich, restrained organ accompaniment. The music swells to a passionate climax, but just as its course seems set, this is interrupted by a massive but brief cadenza for the organ in huge Messiaenic chords. The second half of the work reprises the mood and texture of the open, but with a newfound solemnity and sorrow. Grāmata čellam is a much earlier work, from 1978, and still bears traces of Vasks' early flirtation with the avant garde. The two movements are strongly contrasted; the first is a furious protest, repeatedly returning to a dissonant klaxon alarm motif, while the second begins with insubstantial keening sounds in the cello's highest harmonics, but gradually resolves into a simple, songlike theme of consolation and repose. Sol Gabetta (cello), Amsterdam Sinfonietta; Candida Thompson.