May 16, 2012
One of the best known Latvian musicians internationally, with a career spanning multiple decades, soprano Inese Galante (known as Inessa Galante internationally) has turned to sacred music on her latest 2011 release – The Soul of Rīga. Recorded at the Rīga Cathedral, the two CD collection features the Cathedral’s world famous organ performed by organists Aivars Kalējs and Mattias Wager.
This expansive collection, running almost two hours, covers a broad range of vocal music (as well as two solo organ works, one performed by Wager and a second work, composed and performed by Kalējs). The repertoire ranges from early baroque works to late romantic era pieces. The bulk of the songs are sacred, but there are also a number of secular works in this collection.
Galante has been performing for decades, both as a solo singer (frequently performing in London, with other performances worldwide), as well as in a number of operas – particularly the operas of Puccini and Verdi. A long-time recording artist for Campion records, she has recorded more than 10 CDs, with her CD Debut a particularly popular recording. She has also received the Latvian Order of the Three Stars, as well as the Great Music Award. Galante is also the patroness of and performs at the yearly Summertime Music Festival in Jūrmala, Latvia.
At the heart of the collection are a number of renditions of “Ave Maria”, including two of the best known – the first by Giulio Caccini (which opens the first CD), as well as Franz Schubert’s version (which opens the second CD). These timeless classics are given a new life by the warm voice of Galante, as well as the hearty sound of the Rīga Cathedral organ.
The first CD concentrates mainly on Baroque composers – almost all of the best known Baroque composers are represented here – Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Friedrich Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Henry Purcell. Particularly memorable is Galante’s performance of G. F. Handel’s “Lascia ch’io piango”, bringing a notable tenderness and sadness to this tragic song. The CD concludes with Wager’s solo performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fantasia in G minor.
The second CD, continuing chronologically into the classical and romantic periods, features composers such as Georges Bizet, Edvard Grieg, and Antonin Dvorak. The second CD concludes with Kalējs’ solo performance of his own composition – the Toccatta on the Choral “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’”.
Perhaps one of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s best known vocal works is “Solvejg’s Lied”, and Galante’s performance of this timeless song is one of the highlights of the second CD in this collection. Moving from somber verse to an almost playful chorus, Galante’s talent for dramatic performance shines through.
This release contains biographical information on Galante, Kalējs, and Wager, as well as a history of the Rīga Cathedral Organ, in Latvian, English and Russian.
Ably assisted by organists Aivars Kalējs and Mattias Wager, performing on the legendary organ of the Rīga Cathedral, Galante reaffirms her status as one of the premiere singers in the world today. At nearly two hours over the two CDs, containing a wide variety of works from Baroque to modern, this is a thorough and engrossing recording. Bringing richness and texture to works both recent and centuries old, Galante has made a memorable document of both her singing as well as the magnificent organ, which is truly the soul of Rīga.
Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area who lives in Rīga, Latvia. When not working in the information technology field, he sings in the Latvian Academy of Culture mixed choir Sõla, does occasional translation work, and has been known to sing and play guitar at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Old Rīga. Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.