Vasks: Pater noster; Missa; Dona nobis pacem

LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Pater noster; Missa;
Dona nobis pacem


PERFORMER: Latvian Radio Choir;
Sinfonietta Riga/Sigvards Klava

For those of us who discovered Vasks through his earlier, more Modernist works, his output over the last 15 years or so has been rather surprising. No room here to go into the reasons for the evolution of his music, but you’ll get the general idea from two quotes: ‘the KGB controlled literature and cinema but couldn’t understand instrumental music’ and ‘to me it is not so much how but what you say.’ More telling still, he procrastinated when first asked to set the Pater noster: he felt he hadn’t matured enough to write anything sufficiently simple.

Perhaps the closest analogy is the music of Górecki (although Vasks has a sharper edge) but several passages also evoke ‘pre-authentic’ renditions of Bach. Vasks, too, is deeply religious, but what concerns him most is the destruction of the natural world. Whilst celebrating Earth’s beauty he seeks a way of saving it, and with Dona nobis pacem concludes that only pleading with God will provide a solution.

However you view this, the beauty of the music is hardly disputable. Some commentators find his current style too simplistic, neo-Romantic and sentimental (witness, for example, the drubbing the 1999 Proms premiere of his second symphony received in some quarters) but even they must acknowledge the superb performances here: clear, perfectly paced, beautifully balanced and sumptuously textured, with just the right pitch of emotion.


Barry Witherden