Vasks: Cor Anglais Concerto; Lauda; Cantabile; Message; Musica dolorosa

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COMPOSERS: Vasks
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: Cor Anglais Concerto; Lauda; Cantabile; Message; Musica dolorosa
PERFORMER: Normunds Schnee (cor anglais)Riga PO/Kriss Rusmanis
CATALOGUE NO: CDCF 236 DDD
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union a number of strongly nationalist composers from the independent states have come to prominence. The latest is the Latvian Peteris Vasks, born in 1946, whose admiration for the music of three very different Polish composers – Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Górecki – is discernible in his own work.

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The most impressive and substantial piece here is Lauda (1986), a tribute to the Latvian language and people whose strong sense of organic growth produces some imposing climaxes from folk-based ideas. Similar material informs the string orchestra piece Cantabile (1979), in which free passages alternate with entirely written-out sections. The intensely personal quality of Musica dolorosa (1983) recalls the death of the composer’s sister, as well as the generally bleak political situation of the time.

Weaknesses are more obvious in Message (1982), whose ideas lack the quality necessary to support the repetition they are put to, and the 1989 Cor Anglais Concerto, which at best makes unimaginative use of the solo instrument and at worst sounds commonplace.

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The Riga Philharmonic makes a healthy and committed showing under the baton of the half-Latvian conductor Kriss Rusmanis.George Hall