Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Peteris Vasks, Viola Concerto, String Symphony "Voices," Sinfonietta Riga, Maxim Rysanov, Viola & Conductor
The "Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra" (2014-15) opens with an ultra-tonal primality that has some of the folk-like string lyricism of Hovhanness and the longing long-tones of an Arvo Part.Yet one would not confuse this music with either composer because Vasks authoritatively brings his self-singing into it all. The stage is set for the viola and the entrance confirms open and stopped string eloquence and earthiness combined. The second movement catches the folk-dance mood and makes of it something beautifully wrought and infectiously engaging. The music grows more vivid and energetic in the third movement before the last movement and its exquisite peace.
The "Symphony for Strings 'Voices'" follows, written some years earlier in 1991. It opens with a strongly yearning series of chordal string blocks, goes on to depict groups of birds singing in the middle movement, with some of the most lyrically evocative music he has written. The movement culminates in a beautifully exuberant, collective mass twitter. In contrast the final movement expresses some of the political upheaval the Baltic States were undergoing while the music was coming into being. Dubbed "Voices of conscience," it expresses dismay and perhaps a yearning sense of hope. culminating in an outcry and then serene reflections perhaps, a kind of hopeful resignation? It is moving music.
So we end where we began, in a contemplative silence. Vasks' music is here especially thoughtful, seemingly perfect for the reflective solitude many of us may find ourselves experiencing of late. We get two deeply introspective works played especially well. It gives us a perfectly representative introduction to his music for those not familiar but then provides a welcome addition for those who know the composer and want more. Bravo!