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Pētēris Vasks: Musica Serena; Musica Dolorosa, etc

Munich Radio Orchestra/Ivan Repušić, et al (BR Klassik)

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Pētēris Vasks
Cello Concerto No. 2 ‘Presence’; Musica Serena; Musica Dolorosa; Musica Appassionata
Uladzimir Sinkevich (cello), Anna-Maria Palii (soprano); Munich Radio Orchestra/Ivan Repušić
BR Klassik 900336   76:53 mins


As son of a ‘politically undependable’ clergyman in Soviet-controlled Latvia, Vasks (b1946) was denied entrance to the State Conservatory. Instead he went to Lithuania where double bass studies led to an orchestral career both there and at home. When he finally turned to composing – his first love – writing for strings offered a natural outlet for his desire to resist oppression through beauty.

The works here date from 1983 to 2015 and show no let-up in intensity or purpose into today’s newly challenging times. Three of Vasks’s cycle of four ‘musicae’ for string orchestra are given radiant performances by the Munich Radio Orchestra under conductor Ivan Repušić. The forces are joined by soloist Uladzimir Sinkevich for an equally penetrating Cello Concerto No. 2, Klātbūtne (Presence).

Each work has a different emotional impetus but all flow with an immediate, searing lyricism from Vasks’s long-established combination of stark anguish and ethereal yearning. The earliest, Musica Dolorosa (1983), is both the most personal and political. Composed following the death of Vasks’s sister it’s also a lament for the Latvian people, pre-independence.

While Musica appassionata (2002) and Musica serena (2015) retain the work’s tragic imprint, they elevate its underlying optimism in spirituality and friendship respectively. All these qualities are extended in Klātbūtne (2011-12), whose title – ‘Presence’ – indicates a deep engagement with the world. A journey of life from opening cadenza ‘first steps’, via disillusionment and struggle, the third movement ‘ascending into the cosmos’ reaches eloquent apotheosis in soprano Anna-Maria Palii’s vocalise.

Read more reviews of the latest Vasks recordings


Steph Power