Latvian Verbs App redesigned

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Latvian verbs”? For most, it’s plain and boring grammatical tables you needed to memorise at Latvian school.

As a 16-year-old, attending Latvian school in Melbourne, and having to look at these tables every week, I was convinced that this challenging part of Latvian grammar could be digitalised to run on computers. That was thirty years ago when personal desktop computers first began to appear in schools, and I longed for the day to try out my new idea – even if it meant sneaking into the computer room after classes.

Fast forward to April, 2021 and the latest version of Latvian Verbs for iPhones and iPads is now available. It is a major upgrade after a 5-year hiatus – completely redesigned and redeveloped! The valuable feedback received from our users worldwide means that it is now even easier and friendlier to use.

Overview of the new Latvian Verbs App (30 secs)

To help illustrate how Latvian Verbs works, let’s look at the verb nopirkt (to buy) in the past tense:

The prefix is no, the verb stem is pirk with the suffix t. Depending upon the person (es, tu, viņš.. viņas) the suffix changes quite predictably and is shown highlighted in red.

Changing to the future tense, we can see a similar pattern: prefix, stem and endings highlighted in red.

In the present tense, it becomes trickier. In our example, the verb stem has changed from pirk to pērk, in the 2nd person singular, the stem ending changes from k -> c and there is no longer a vowel suffix.

If you tap on nopirkt you will get additional useful information about this verb. The classification provides hints on which conjugation rules to apply. The 1st conjugation refers to all verbs where the verb stem is only one syllable (there are also 2nd and 3rd conjugation verbs that end in -āt, -īt, -ēt, -ot, -ūt and have two or more syllables). The 1st conjugation is the most complex and is further divided into 5 groups – nopirkt belongs to the 2nd group and other similar verbs are listed as a reference. The prefixes section shows the most popular prefixes that can be used with the base verb pirkt. Changing a prefix will often change the overall verb meaning as well.

If you need help with the pronunciation of the verb forms, tap on the share icon, select the Izrunā ar Tildes Balsi option (this is a free App download from the AppStore) and listen to the audio. Alternatively, you can share the verb with others as well as mark it as a favourite for future reference.

The Lists section provides the top 50 and top 100 Latvian verbs and, as with all languages, there are also exceptions with additional notes that you can study further.

For more advanced learners, tap on the settings icon and choose the palatalised r and open/closed e options. The compound tense and passive voice (beginners should avoid the passive voice) are off by default. Switching these on reveals the complexity of Latvian verbs.

Advanced users can also choose from indicative, relative, conditional, debitive and imperative moods to further explore the many different Latvian verb forms.

All of the above works well on iPads in portrait as well as landscape modes.

To download Latvian Verbs from the AppStore just search for “Latvian Verbs”. If you would like to provide feedback or have any questions on Latvian Verbs, please use the contact link through the App or post on the Latvian Verbs Facebook page.

Vasks’ works played, conducted by violist Rysanov provide inspired performance

The viola has long been overshadowed by the slightly smaller violin, and there is significantly less music written specifically for the viola as compared to the violin. Some even may consider the viola to be a more ‘accompanying’ instrument, rather than a solo instrument. However, the viola, with its lower and richer sound, still has a distinct resonance and timbre, and is deserving of a much broader solo repertoire.

Perhaps recognizing that, Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks composed a concerto for viola in 2014/15 and dedicated the work to the distinguished violist Maxim Rysanov. In 2020, the Swedish record label BIS released a recording of this work, featuring Rysanov as both violist and conductor, along with the orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga. The conductor and orchestra also pair the Viola Concerto with Vasks’ Symphony for Strings Balsis (‘Voices’) on the CD.

Much of what Vasks composes is emotionally tense and full of sadness, and the Viola Concerto is no exception. The first movement opens with an eerily quiet and almost fragile performance from the strings, a slowly ascending melody that is punctuated by plucked strings. Rysanov enters playing a slow, mournful melody, as the orchestra slowly grows in volume and intensity. The plucked strings create a pulse or heartbeat in the second movement, as the tension continues to grow, and the viola performs a kind of melancholic dance. The dance becomes more frantic over time, but then turns into a solo performance by Rysanov, with sudden starts and stops, creating an aura of uncertainty. 

The gently flowing third movement gradually turns ominous, as the viola and orchestra perform a kind of dialogue, and the conversation becomes more strained and frantic as the movement progresses. Rysanov brings out the expressive nature of this movement in his lyrical and fluid performance, particularly the extensive solo performance at the end of this movement, which is then joined by the orchestra only to suddenly end, giving way to the solemn adagio of the fourth movement. The first few glimmers of hope appear here, with Rysanov’s melodious viola bringing a kind of calm to conclude the storm of the previous movements. 

The monumental Symphony for Strings Balsis was written in 1991, a particularly turbulent time in Latvia’s history. Though independence was in the process of being restored, the process was tumultuous and even dangerous at times. An uneasy, barely audible string melody is heard at the beginning of the first movement ‘Klusuma balsis’ (or ‘Voices of Silence’). The foreboding stillness slowly begins to expand in a very deliberate, steady melody in the strings, and Sinfonietta Rīga’s performance gives it the sound of a choir’s wordless vocalize. 

Themes of nature, an oft-used motif in Vasks’ music, can be heard in the second movement – ‘Dzīvības balsis’ (or ‘Voices of Life’), which could perhaps be described as the sound of the dawning of a new day, with brief flutters and chirps of sound from the orchestra. The music is very tentative, as if unclear what this new day will bring but begins to swell and become a soaring song, full of life, though it does gradually descend into a kind of cacophony or musical chaos near the end, perhaps indicating the unstable and uncertain environment of that era. That confusion leads to perhaps the most personal of the movements, the third and final – Sirdsapziņu balsis (or ‘Voices of Conscience’), where the strings, often in unison, play a dramatic and piercing melody, turning into discordant waves of sound. It concludes with the similar, almost whispering strings of the introduction, giving the conclusion an almost ephemeral nature.

Over the course of the album, it becomes clear why Pēteris Vasks dedicated the Viola Concerto to Maxim Rysanov, as he displays an innate and keen understanding of not just Vasks’ music, but also the emotions and thoughts behind it all. And not just as a violist, but a conductor as well – Rysanov, along with Sinfonietta Rīga, provide for an inspired performance of Vasks’ Symphony Balsis, giving an interpretation that is both urgent and nuanced, revealing the many layers and textures of the work, one of Vasks’ towering symphonic accomplishments. 

For further information, please visit the BIS Records website  and the Sinfonietta Rīga website.

Pēteris Vasks – Viola Concerto / String Symphony Balsis

Sinfonietta Rīga, Maxim Rysanov – viola & conductor

BIS Records, BIS-2443, 2020

Track listing:

Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra

  1. I. Andante
  2. II. Allegro moderato
  3. III. Andante
  4. IV. Adagio

 Symphony for Strings ‘Voices’ (Balsis)

  • I. Voices of silence (Klusuma balsis)
  • II. Voices of life (Dzīvības balsis)
  • III. Voice of conscience (Sirdsapziņas balss)

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . 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.

Celebrating 25 years, Radio Klasika release 25 digital album collection

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Latvijas Radio 3 “Klasika”, the Latvian radio station dedicated to classical and academic music, the Latvian national music label Skani, overseen by the Latvian Music Information Centre, is releasing a 25 digital album series containing some of the best performances from the Latvian Radio archives.

Each album contains the works of one Latvian composer, and the composers selected include a broad range of eras and styles. The series features early Latvian composers such as Pēteris Barisons, Jāzeps Mediņš, and Alfrēds Kalniņš, 20th century composers such as Jānis Ivanovs, Marģeris Zariņš, and Artūrs Grīnups, as well as modern composers such as Ēriks Ešenvalds, Pēteris Vasks, and Andris Dzenītis. There will also be releases that spotlight the work of exiled/diaspora composers like Tālivaldis Ķeniņš, Imants Mežaraups, and Gundaris Pone. Recordings were made between 1963 and 2018.

The albums are available via multiple streaming services.

For further information, please visit the Skani website and the Latvijas Radio 3 “Klasika” website

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . 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.