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Pēteris Vasks: Violin Concerto ‘Distant Light’ etc

Vadim Gluzman (violin); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Pēteris Vasks
Violin Concerto ‘Distant Light’; Summer Dances; Piano Quartet
Vadim Gluzman (violin); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
BIS BIS-2352   84:29 mins


Vasks composed his violin concerto Distant Light (1996-7) for Gidon Kremer, who was instrumental in opening western ears to Baltic composers’ music – and whom he discovered he’d known at school. Two decades on, the concerto has become a classic. Its soulful, melancholic passion remains key to Vasks’s ongoing impulse to re-ignite the connections with nature, beliefs and ideals that he sees everywhere being lost.

Here the concerto is presented alongside the equally intense 2001 Piano Quartet and lighter-hearted 2017 violin duo Summer Dances. All three feature violinist Vadim Gluzman, effortlessly controlled in both orchestral and chamber settings.

In Distant Light he is joined by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Hannu Lintu. Together they offer a lush reading which emphasises the work’s overarching purpose, smoothly knitting together the three contrasting solo cadenzas within its seven-movement frame. Ascending motifs reach as if for the faraway illumination of the title before falling back and searching anew, the nostalgia leavened by sudden harmonic swerves and a restlessness which finds its climax in a momentarily savage waltz.

A similar energy marks the Quartet, which feels as large-scale in its anguished yet luminous changing textures. Gluzman, Ilze Klava (viola), Reinis Birznieks (cello) and Angela Yoffe (piano) prove subtle partners, the chordal and canonic writing alike balanced and refined.

The interleaving Summer Dances (with violinist Sandis Šteinbergs) offer a more buoyant mood. Here and throughout the playing is superb, yet there’s a slight sense of an abandon not quite surrendered to.


Steph Power