Have your say in University of Latvia survey on diaspora camps and summer high schools

One of the most effective ways to maintain the Latvian language and identity in the younger generation who live outside Latvia is via children’s and youth camps summer high schools. Children and youth who attend diaspora camps are happy to get involved in activities where their use of the Latvian language is encouraged, and an understanding of their ancestors’ homeland is enhanced.

Despite the choice of diaspora camps being very limited this year due to Covid-19, the Diaspora and Migration Research Centre at the University of Latvia, commissioned by the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has launched a survey with the aim to find out how camps for children and youth of Latvian descent or Latvian nationals who are living outside Latvia are rated and ways to improve how they are run and operate.

Youth who are 16-30 years old, as well as parents whose children have participated or could possibly participate in camps and summer high schools for diaspora children and youth are invited to fill out the survey.

The survey can be filled out in Latvian or English.

  • If you are a YOUTH, aged 16-30, please use this link to complete the survey!
  • If you are a PARENT (have children aged 5-18), please use this link to complete the survey!

The survey may be completed until 10th August.

The findings of the study will be published on www.diaspora.lu.lv and www.migracija.lv

Researchers at the Diaspora and Migration Research Centre, University of Latvia

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD candidate, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, an author and translator into English of various books on industrial history in Latvia.

LNSO, conductor Andris Poga pay tribute to composer Tālivaldis Ķeniņš

Canadian Latvian composer Tālivaldis Ķeniņš, who was born in 1919 and passed away in 2008, through his many decades of composition and work in the music field, is a towering figure in Latvian academic music. Throughout his long and storied career, Ķeniņš wove together many styles of music – conductor Andris Poga notes “touches of modernism, expressionism and also Jazz” can be heard in his music.

For all his renown, Ķeniņš and his works are comparatively less well known in Latvia, likely due to Ķeniņš spending the bulk of his life in Canada as an exiled Latvian during the Soviet occupation of Latvia. However, with the centenary of Ķeniņš birth in 2019, interest in his work was heightened, and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andris Poga performed and recorded several of his works. An album of three orchestral works – the Violin Concerto, the Concerto for Five Percussionists and Orchestra, and ‘Beatae voces tenebrae’ – was released in 2020.

The Violin Concerto, featuring soloist Eva Bindere, is a work of five movements (without any pauses between the movements) that is a near constant stream of musical activity. The almost frenetic work, which at a moment’s notice can go from a harsh sound to a lyrical melody, from a rapid, intense performance to a slower, methodical one, gives Bindere a showcase for her talents. The mournful, mysterious second movement is a highlight, as well as the final movement, much of which is Bindere performing solo. With her clear, lyrical tone, Bindere’s violin reveals the nuances and subtleness in Ķeniņš’ work, all the way to the dramatic and sudden conclusion.

The Concerto for Five Percussionists (on this recording they are Mikus Bāliņš, Elvijs Endelis, Elīna Endzele, Guntars Freibergs, and Ernests Mediņš – collectively the Perpetuum Ritmico ensemble) begins dramatically, almost ominously. An uneasy calm is present in the second movement, with the strings of the orchestra adding a dreamlike quality to the sound of the percussionists, which then transitions to the sharp, sudden sounds of the third movement. The percussionists, performing on a variety of percussive instruments, create a vivid sound palette throughout the work, culminating in the intense and thunderous concluding movement, with the percussion giving a slight military feel, with a sound almost like an alarm as the work concludes.

Ķeniņš rarely offered any programmatic notes for his works, simply entitling them ‘symphony’ or ‘concerto’ and letting the listeners decide for themselves what to think, but on the work ‘Beatae voces tenebrae’ Ķeniņš did offer some notes on the inspiration for it. Prior to the time of composition, the composer had lost two close friends, and the sorrow and anguish can be heard throughout the work. As the composer’s son, Juris Ķeniņš described it, the work is a “meditation about death and eternity”. From its reserved, somber beginning, to the funereal middle section, there are still elements of tenderness, as if remembering someone. The Orchestra, along with conductor Poga, bring forth the many emotions and moods of this layered work.

The CD booklet contains many fascinating notes about Ķeniņš’ life, how, prior to World War II, he studied in Paris, and, upon return to Latvia, was initially refused admission to the Latvian Conservatory by composer Jāzeps Vītols (who believed Ķeniņš wasn’t quite ready as a composer), but colleague, fellow composer Ādolfs Ābele, took on the responsibility to teach Ķeniņš. Ķeniņš returned to Paris as a refugee during World War II, and continued his education there, among his teachers was renowned French composer Olivier Messiaen. Ķeniņš later emigrated to Canada, where he became a professor at the University of Toronto.

Through his many decades of work, Tālivaldis Ķeniņš established himself as one of the premiere 20th century composers, and this collection of his orchestral works confirms his place as one of the most distinguished Latvian, as well as Canadian, composers. The Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andris Poga, as well as the soloists, provide vivid and dynamic performances, which are a tribute to this illustrious, venerable composer and his incomparable contribution to academic music.

For further information, please visit the Skani website and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra website.

Tālivaldis Ķeniņš

Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Andris Poga

LMIC/SKANI 088, 2020

Track listing

Violin Concerto (1974)

  1. Moderato con moto
  2. Piu lento
  3. Doppio movimento. Scherzoso
  4. Doppio piu lento
  5. Cadenza. Senza misura

Concerto for Five Percussionists and Orchestra

  • Vivo e marcato – Un poco meno mosso
  • Tranquillo
  • Molto animato
  • Lento
  • Coda. Presto
  1. Beatae voces tenebrae

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.

Works performed by pianist Daumants Liepiņš on new CD reveal majesty, fragility of nature

Young Latvian pianist Daumants Liepiņš has, in a few short years, become one of the most notable and accomplished musicians in Latvia. Having won the Best Debut award at the Latvian Great Music Awards in 2017, he went on to competition victories, and in 2021, is, as a pianist, an artist in residence at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Brussels.

To add to his achievements, Liepiņš recorded his first solo piano album, which was released in 2020, and contains works by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and Latvian composer Imants Zemzaris. The works were selected by Liepiņš, to present the “majesty of nature and the fragility of the soul”.

Zemzaris’ Piano Sonata No. 3 is subtitled ‘Kaija’ (or ‘Seagull’), as the music is based upon incidental music Zemzaris composed for a production of the Anton Chekov play at the Valmiera Theater in 2001. In 2008, the composer refashioned the music into a proper piano sonata. The first movement has a fleeting quality about it, perhaps like a bird that is ready to fly away. The second movement becomes weightier and more somber. Zemzaris noted that the music is for the character of Konstantin Treplyov (also spelled Treplev), to show the character’s “stingingly freezing loneliness”. The music was also imagined to be a work that Treplyov himself composes offstage. The third movement is more melodic, dance-like, intertwining classical elements with more modern elements, almost playfully at times, though with hints of melancholy. This then leads to a thunderous crash at the beginning of the final movement, with a rumbling melody in the lower register of the piano, full of foreboding, even a sense of dread. Liepiņš provides a rich, thoughtful performance of Zemzaris’ composition, presenting the theatrical and dramatic elements of the work in an engrossing, riveting interpretation.

Rachmaninoff’s Etude-tableaux, Op. 39 No. 2 is a tender, almost fragile work, though it does have dramatic moments. Liepiņš compares the music of Rachmaninoff to water, waves in the sea, and this interpretation is imbued in Liepiņš’ performance – a flowing, undulating sound, at times calm, others stormy. Liepiņš plays with confidence, but also delicately, perhaps presenting the fragility of nature in his performance.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 2 (1931 revision) is a stormy, tempestuous work, technically challenging, requiring a robust performance, which Liepiņš assuredly provides. A listener might hear the sound of bells in this work, particularly in the resonant descending intervals. Rachmaninoff often incorporated the sound of bells in his music, and musicologist Ināra Jakubone notes in the CD booklet that “allusions to the sound of bells are considered one of the musical symbols of Russia in Rachmaninoff’s music.” There is a respite to the storm in the second movement, while the grand third movement, Rachmaninoff alternates between thundering passages with brief bursts of melody in the upper register, as the work reaches its culmination. Liepiņš deftly handles this difficult work, with a monumental performance that encompasses both drama and lyricism.

Daumants Liepiņš has convincingly established himself as one of the premiere pianists in Latvia, and this album of music by Imants Zemzaris and Sergei Rachmaninoff confirms his talent and abilities, not just in performance but also dramatic interpretation.

For further information, please visit Daumants Liepiņš’ website

Rachmaninoff. Zemzaris

Daumants Liepiņš

LMIC/SKANI 084, 2020

Track listing

Sergei Rachmaninoff

  1. Etude-tableaux, Op. 39 No. 2

Imants Zemzaris

Piano Sonata No. 3 Kaija (Seagull) (2008)

  • Allegro
  • Andantino rubato
  • Moderato
  • Andante

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 36 (1931 version)

  • Allegro agitato
  • Non allegro – Lento
  • L’istesso tempo – Allegro molto

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.