Vasks: Episodi e canto perpetuo; Landscape with Birds; Fantasia – Landscapes of a Burnt-out Earth; Music for a Deceased Friend

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COMPOSERS: Vasks
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: Episodi e canto perpetuo; Landscape with Birds; Fantasia – Landscapes of a Burnt-out Earth; Music for a Deceased Friend
PERFORMER: Dita Krenberga (flute), Inara Zandmane (piano), Kristine Blaumane (cello); Latvian Philharmonic Trio, Riga Wind Quintet
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51272 2
Peteris Vasks claims his art speaks the language of Latvia in terms of suffering, idealism and the cause of beauty. There’s certainly beauty to be found in this music. But the suffering in the sound may be more evident to Latvians than to others, who will hear the contemporary atonal lingua franca distilled to make pieces as fragile as snowflakes.

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Landscape with Birds for solo flute, the first work in this collection, is a case in point. Though its eight-minute span is filled with imaginative twitterings, there’s little sense that these are either Vaskian or Latvian creatures in the way that Messiaen’s birds belonged to his private aviary. In contrast, the Episodi e canto perpetuo, a Messiaen homage, bears the outward appearance of the Quartet for the End of Time, but lacks the inner stillness for which that work is rightly acclaimed.

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Vasks is most certain when concerned with the personal. Both the Music for a Deceased Friend for wind quintet, and Book for solo cello, say their piece with elegance and precision. The piano fantasia Landscapes of a Burnt-Out Earth is a sombre reflection on the current state of Latvian society. Nicholas Williams