Several years ago we approached our contemporaries, our master composers, and invited them to embark on a journey of the imagination in a direction that is as yet relatively unfamiliar to Latvian music. The chamber symphony – significant ideas for a smaller orchestra – turned out to be a tempting challenge!
Latvia has never before had an ensemble like Sinfonietta Rīga. Our repertoire is being created today, and the ensemble regards this as a strategic and responsible mission.
The compositions on this recording are significant and enduring. We believe that they reflect the unique style of each composer in a vivid and exciting way, allowing no compromises. They have revealed luscious colours and enchanting lightness and nuance in the orchestra’s sound.
This dialogue is nowhere near its end, and we can expect many more unique revelations and creative pursuits knocking down boundaries.
The main theme of rising fourths in Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 was destined to fly high and remain in the musical heavens for eternity. I am still fascinated by the notion that cosmic ideas do not always require grandiose resources, that the realisation of such ideas through the energy contained within a relatively small ensemble nevertheless reaches its goal with perfect precision.
Ivanovs’ Symphony No. 5 is like a powerful oil painting. It brings to mind the lushness of the earth as painted by Ģederts Eliass, the whirlpools of Jānis Pauļuks, the interaction between colours in Valdis Bušs’ artwork. Several features of the composition lead one to believe that this is an example of abstractionism: the fragmentation of powerful thoughts, the constant changes in affects, the unique construction of forms that is strengthened by the dotted fifth–fourth motif in the first and fourth parts and the C as the symphony’s alpha and omega. Likewise, the familiar characters that the composer’s boundless fantasy and stormy temperament turn into symbolic figures.
“I feel an internal need to paint the sun green,” said painter Valdis Bušs (1924–2014). His paintings are extraordinarily expressive and colourful, and much in them is “not the right colour”. Likewise, little in Ivanovs’ symphonies is correct and predictable. But those thick, vivid brushstrokes, the green sun, the red water and the dark violet earth are so enthralling that the listener becomes a participant in a spirited conversation. Rhetoric is the key word to Ivanovs’ music. One must listen.
The plenary of the Latvian SSR Composers’ Union in the spring of 1985 was dedicated to the 40th anniversary of victory in the Second World War. Although elsewhere in the world May 8 is the accepted date for the commemoration of the end of that war in Europe, the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc celebrated May 9 as the last day of the Great Patriotic War.
The plenary’s concert of symphonic music took place in the Great Guild in Riga on April 14, 1985. The programme included Ivanovs’ Symphony No. 5 and the premiere of Juris Karlsons’ 1945 for symphonic orchestra performed by the LNSO under the direction of Vassily Sinaisky.
In the programme notes, Jānis Torgāns wrote that Karlsons had met people in Leningrad who had “truly experienced the reality of war”, and their memories provided him with the impulse to write the opus. 1945 can be interpreted both as a year and as a symbol of that year worked into the first motif of the work – namely, 1945 begins with the first, ninth, fourth and fifth steps of an imagined sequence based on C (C, D♭, F, G♭). In the second motif, the ascending ninth C–D♭ is inverted into a descending major seventh C–D♭ in the brass instruments.
“It was very important for us, specifically for the Latvian centenary, to show our country’s music in all of its splendour and diversity and to prove that Latvia is a global force in the realm of classical music. We recorded well-known compositions and also as-yet undiscovered masterpieces of piano music. The former category definitely includes Jānis Zālītis’ compositions for piano, Jāzeps Vītols’ Berceuse and Jānis Ivanovs’ later preludes. To the latter category belong Vītols’ Song of the Waves, Pēteris Vasks’ compositions from the The Seasons cycle and Arturs Maskats’ wonderful piano poem Kazbegi: Tsminda-Sameba, which is dedicated to us and inspired by the composer’s journey to Georgia. And, of course, Ādolfs Skulte’s Arietta...”
Sergejs, Andrejs and Georgijs Osokins
Release date - December 1, 2017
“Music is the breath of the soul,” said Lūcija Garūta. And I believe that is exactly what she did – she wrote music at times when she could not do otherwise.
This album and indeed my encounter with Garūta’s world began with her Piano Concerto. Among Latvian piano concertos, hers is truly a significant and special composition owing to its unusually acute honesty. And, even though it mediates her very own experience, in it I sometimes also hear the pain of our entire nation. Perhaps that’s because of the folk melodies included within it, for in this work they take on timeless, universal overtones. The other large-scale opus in this album, the Variations, conveys similar power through its use of folk melodies and texts, and through them, it beacons hope. Both of these works are a living testimony to Garūta’s indestructible belief in a bright future, even if such a future can only be found in the afterlife.
Garūta’s combination of femininity and fearlessness, fragility and strength also permeates the shorter pieces on this album. The four Preludes are a true masterpiece recalling Scriabin’s tonal colours; the four different characters expressed in the work are at once united and contrasted. The Meditation, in this version for solo piano, allows us once again to get closer to Garūta’s soul. And the final Little Doll’s Lulling Song came to me completely by accident (or perhaps not so): once when I was visiting Garūta’s apartment in Rīga, I happened to open one of her photo albums, and a small piece of paper fell out of it, upon which this little song was sketched out very lightly in pencil. It was dedicated to the very same little girl to whose memory she dedicated the Piano Concerto seven years later.
This year marks 40 years since Garūta’s passing. In this context, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Daina Pormale, the granddaughter of Garūta’s sister, who with much love and care has been continuously handing down our dear Lūcija’s legacy to me and to future generations.
In short, Garūta reminds me to seek to stay truthful – and for that I thank her.
The work of our trio revolves around collaboration with contemporary Latvian composers. Seeing as there is almost no music originally written for the specific composition of our group - cello, piano and percussion - we need to take an active role in the creation of such music. And for that we need composers, who create the fertile soil for our ‘artichoke’ to grow and flourish. It is precisely in this creative interaction with composers, listeners and concert organisers that the art-i-shock is born: creative surprise, musical adventure. Over the few years of our existence, we’ve already reaped quite an armful of artichokes. And soon they will be joined by already a twentieth piece of music.
They differ very much from each other, and together they form quite a mosaic. They are as diverse as the ardour and sincerity conveyed by their creators during the recording process. But together, our wonderful composers have created a large, beautiful meadow, into which listeners may wade and surrender themselves to the experience of sound, or the art-i-shock.