Vasks: Symphony No. 3; Cello Concerto

LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Marko Ylönen (cello); Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds
The Tampere Philharmonic commissioned Pe¯teris Vasks to write a 15-minute piece, but his Third Symphony (2004-5) clocked in at over 40 minutes, which hasn’t stopped them performing and recording it. It’s in a huge single movement, mostly broodingly pastoral and elegiac, riven by episodes of percussive conflict and occasional sheer Nordic weirdness (such as the wailing flexatone episodes, for example); altogether like a more soft-centred Allan Pettersson, perhaps. It fills its large canvas satisfyingly enough and Vasks’s command of his large forces is impressive, though at no point does this feel like a major utterance.


The Cello Concerto (1993-94), nothing if not eloquent, seems born of a more urgent expressive need and is more varied in pace. The speaking, pleadingly melodic quality of the solo line, sometimes under attack from Shostakovichian marching tuttis, underlines the Latvian composer’s conception of the piece as the testimony of a spirit nearly, but not quite, crushed beneath power of the Soviet regime. Its dedicatee, David Geringas, recorded the Concerto ten years ago for Conifer with the Riga Philharmonic, an interpretation of ringing authority, but Marko Ylönen brings a distinctive sweetness to his projection of the melodic content and the Tampere Philharmonic give even stronger instrumental support. An important issue that continues to consolidatre Vasks’s position as one of the most important of living Baltic composers. Calum MacDonald