The beauty that the Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks evokes in his works would not be possible without the experience of violence and cruelty in this world. He grew up in a country deprived of liberty, and because of his faith and his artistic convictions he was exposed to reprisals from Russian cultural doctrine. His father, a Baptist pastor, was regarded as an “enemy of the people”, and his homeland was under Soviet control. As a result, Vasks developed a vision of freedom and subtle protest in his music. In the so-called “singing revolution”, the countries of the Baltic region with their traditional love of choral music initiated their independence from Soviet rule. Vasks’ expressive, direct and often deliberately simple music quickly became the mouthpiece of the long-suppressed Latvian people, giving the nation a proud voice that can be heard worldwide. Today, alongside Arvo Pärt and Erkki Sven-Tüür, Pēteris Vasks is one of the most famous composers from the Baltic states of the former Soviet Union.
The works on this CD are for chamber-music string ensembles: his first symphony “Balsis – Voices” (1991), the haunting violin concerto “Tālā gaisma – Distant Light” (1996/97), and the piece “Viatore” (the traveller; 2001), dedicated to Arvo Pärt, here in a version for eleven solo strings by the conductor, church musician and arranger Stefan Vanselow. The Münchner Rundfunkorchester plays under its chief conductor Ivan Repušić, and the concerto soloist is Stanko Madić, first concertmaster of the MRO.
During the critical phase that accompanied the emancipation of the Baltic states from the Soviet Union, Vasks’ symphony “Balsis” was commissioned by the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, and it premiered on September 8, 1991 in Kokkola, Finland. Its three sections are dedicated to the voices of silence, the voices of life and the voice of conscience. – The Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra “Tala gaisma”, commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, is dedicated to Gidon Kremer, who premiered it with the Kremerata Baltica on August 10, 1997 in Salzburg. It is a sound epic rich in contrasts, with three great virtuoso solo cadenzas, tonal carpets of chords, elements of folklore, and full of dramatic gestures. – Viatore, the tribute to Arvo Pärt that Vasks composed in 2001, describes man in the loneliness of his existence as a restless wanderer – from his arrival in this world to his adolescence, his first love, and his eventual disappearance.
The recordings were made in Munich at the end of June 2020 in compliance with the distance and hygiene rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production was made possible thanks to the selected works having been scored for chamber strings, and thanks also to proper spacing between the musicians, structural and functional precautions such as glass partitions, and separate microphones in the BR studio.
Stanko Madić, violin
Ivan Repušić, conductor
1 CD BR-KLASSIK 900334