PĒTERIS VASKS (b.1946): Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra (World Premiere Recording), Symphony for Strings “Voices”.
Catalogue Number: 04V012
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: Vasks' first symphony is a powerful and remarkable work, which strangely seems not to have received a new recording since it was new, in the early 1990s. The unrest in the Baltic states as the Soviet Union collapsed occurred during the work's composition, and profoundly affected its trajectory. The first movement, gradually coalescing out of mysterious bass rumblings at the start, is a fine example of 'Baltic Slow Minimalism' as it used to be called when it was a new thing. Slow progressions of chords are underpinned by throbbing bass gestures. The second movement, "Voices of Life" is a nature-painting of burgeoning creation. A tumult of birdsong, graphically and imitatively depicted, emerges during a radiant sunrise. Out of this jubilant 'dawn chorus' a sinuous, Sibelian melody emerges. This swells into overlapping waves of surging texture which crash and give way to a resumption of the theme and its accompanying birdsong, this time developing into a majestic hymn. Growing in grandeur, but also in dissonance, this episode finally flares out in a blinding blaze of light. The finale, "Voice of conscience" brings the human events of the time into the foreground, beginning with an anguished, passionate outcry, and developing into a long-breathed, tormented lament reminiscent of Shostakovich. This is consumed in the flames of a screaming, dissonant cluster of voices, but is reborn from the ashes as a radiant meditation over a gently pulsating bass, finally fading to silence. The Viola Concerto (2014-15) represents the more traditionally neo-romantic style adopted by Vasks in his more recent works, while remaining instantly recognizable as his individual voice. A large work in four movements, it begins with an eloquent lament, followed by a joyful dancing 'scherzo' with a composed 'folk' theme. This movement has an extended cadenza, very much in the romantic virtuoso mood. The weightiest movement of the concerto follows. In a gloriously passionate, sweeping melodic exposition the viola leads the music into a radiant climax. The music becomes increasingly turbulent and combative, and the orchestra takes over in a desperate, despairing chant. A lengthy monologue for the soloist follows, meditating on the preceding tragedy and constantly hinting at the Dies irae. The orchestra supplies a brief valedictory coda. In the final Adagio the darkness returns, but now as a sheltering shroud, out of which the viola gradually, hesitantly, finds its way into the light. Sinfonietta Rīga; Maxim Rysanov (viola).