Vasks: Gramata Cellam; Partita; Episodi e canto perpetuo

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COMPOSERS: Vasks
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Vasks
WORKS: Gramata Cellam; Partita; Episodi e canto perpetuo
PERFORMER: Dmitry Sitkovetsky (violin), David Geringas (cello), Kalle Randalu (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 93.229

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Himself a double-bassist, Pēteris Vasks has developed a particular affinity for the cello, and David Geringas, for whom Vasks composed his Cello Concerto, has brought together a striking programme of Vasks’s cello-centred chamber works. The fusillade of effects and freely-notated rhapsodising of the 1978 Gramata Cellam (Book for cello solo), in which an (uncredited) solo voice eventually joins the instrument in ecstatic duet, is more challenging than the later Vasks we are more familiar with. The four-movement Partita for cello and piano is even earlier (1974), deftly-drawn and more folk-influenced. But the best piece here is the biggest, the piano trio Episodi e canto perpetuo from 1985. Subtitled ‘Hommage à Olivier Messiaen’, it is clearly (and in the ‘Unisoni’ movement, blatantly) indebted to Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps, but it is both inventive and heartfelt, the climactic ‘Canto perpetuo’ itself a decidedly wintry spin on a Messiaenic louange. It’s the sheer exuberance and precision of a work like this that goes a long way to justify Vasks’s current leading position among composers of the Baltic states. The performances are dedicated and technically first-rate, and Hänssler Classics’ recording faithfully renders the smallest harmonic or overtone in Gramata Cellam. This is a valuable addition to the already impressive Vasks discography. Calum MacDonald