PĒTERIS VASKS (b.1946): Oboe Concerto, Message (Vēstījums) for 2 Pianos, Strings and Percussion, Lauda for Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 09X047
Reference: ODE 1355-2
Description: The 2018 Oboe Concerto is one of Vasks' happiest and most optimistic scores. Plenty of his works end in an atmosphere of spiritual consolation or hard-won triumph, but this expansive three-movement concerto is a celebration of the natural beauties of Latvia, its culture, traditions, folklore and singing, with none of the turbulent confrontations between good and evil that characterize many of the composer’s pieces. Opulent and neo-Romantic, it does for Latvia what Smetana's Ma Vlast did for Czechoslovakia. The opening movement is redolent of the burgeoning growth of nature in springtime. This serves as an introduction to the bucolic, pastoral second movement, marked "scherzando". This kaleidoscopic sequence of scenes quotes actual Latvian folksongs, unusually for Vasks, whose "folk melodies" are usually original themes in folk style. Celebratory rituals seem to spread across the countryside, each village with its own customs. A reminder of the grandeur of the landscape ushers in a lengthy cadenza, in which the soloist seems to ruminate with private reflection and passion on the joys and tribulations of life. When the orchestra returns, so do the merrymaking peasants, with a full-blown summer air. The finale bears the title "Evening Pastorale", and the fateful opening suggests that the reference is to more than the literal evening of the day. The melancholy Cor anglé continues the pastoral mood of the previous movement, but now in autumnal colors. The melodically beautiful movement is imbued with a sense of the gentle resignation of evening descending on a life well lived, and after the powerful return of the fateful opening material, we hear a mournfully lovely folk song. An unexpected coda returns to the emerging green shoots and birdsong of the beginning, with a sense of renewal. The other two works are from the 1980s, when Latvia was still under the Soviet yoke, but the seeds of its bloodless "singing revolution" were already being down. "Tidings" is the kind of music that first brought Vasks to prominence in the West. The slow-moving textures and repeating gestures of "spiritual minimalism" and tintinnabulation express the beauty of the natural world and the cosmos, and the dissonance of humankind’s activity within it. 1985's Lauda is a powerful, defiant symphonic poem, heralding the beginning of the march toward Latvian independence. It begins in darkness, but soon a hopeful theme emerges and grows, like the swelling ranks of a great crowd. The music reaches an ecstatic, glowing climax, followed by a folk-dance episode, then another climax of epic, Sibelian grandeur which disintegrates in aleatoric crisis. The final section begins with birdsong over a radiant landscape, before the "motif of growth" re-emerges in hymn-like form to lead the work to its ethereal conclusion. Albrecht Mayer (oboe), Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Andris Yoga. Albrecht Mayer (oboe), Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Andris Yoga.