Sol Gabetta performs Vasks’ Cello Concerto No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Peteris Vasks
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Vasks: Presence
WORKS: Cello Concerto No. 2 (Presence); Musique du soir; Grāmata čellam
PERFORMER: Sol Gabetta (cello), Irène Timacheff-Gabetta (organ); Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson
CATALOGUE NO: Sony 88725423122

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The structural plan of Pēteris Vasks’s Second Cello Concerto, dedicated to Sol Gabetta, follows a familiar enough trajectory – that of tracing life’s experiences from birth to death. According to the composer, the halting fragmentary note patterns of the opening unaccompanied solo cello cadenza reflect ‘the first tentative steps that a human being takes in the world’. After this comes a lyrical first movement, a ‘hymn of love and idealism’ for cello and strings. In stark contrast, a central fast movement exploits a more aggressive and sarcastic character featuring grotesque Shostakovich-like dissonances. A further slow movement depicts ‘the soul ascending into the cosmos, then returning to earth and starting a new life’, the final section of the concerto featuring a remarkable passage in which the soloist is required to sing a lullaby accompanied by the cello.

There’s a simplicity and immediacy to Vasks’s musical language, not that far removed in character and spirituality to the sound world explored in John Tavener’s The Protecting Veil, which makes works like this Concerto so appealing, particularly when it is performed with such fervour by Gabetta and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. It would have been interesting to have heard it alongside the First Cello Concerto, but the two more intimate works presented here prove to be more than a satisfactory alternative, particularly when they are projected with such eloquence by Gabetta. 

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Erik Levi