The Latvian national music label – Skani – actively promotes Latvian musicians, composers and their compositions. Perhaps it is not surprising that, considering the wealth of talent in Latvia, Skani often release a dozen or more albums every year, showcasing many different Latvian talents. Skani also bring attention to composers who might not be as well known today. One such composer who has long deserved renewed attention is Marģeris Zariņš.
Zariņš, who lived from 1910 to 1993, perhaps hit his creative peak in the 1960s. Zariņš was one of the first composers in Latvia to incorporate elements of jazz music and even popular music in his compositions, and also used non-traditional instruments like the saxophone and electric guitar. Zariņš perhaps even paved the way for composers like Raimonds Pauls and Imants Kalniņš who revolutionized Latvian popular music in the 1960s and 1970s. Zariņš even mixed in disparate elements like Baroque themes and music inspired by Japanese and French culture. To help raise the profile of this eclectic and creative composer, in 2021, Skani released an album of Zariņš’ works, performed by Kremerata Baltica (the Baltic youth string orchestra founded by violinist Gidon Kremer) and conducted by Andris Veismanis.
Mezzo-soprano Ieva Parša, one of the most distinguished performers of modern Latvian academic music, joins Kremerata Baltica in a performance of Zariņš’ ‘Partita baroka stilā’ (Partita in Baroque Style), a cycle of songs that melds Baroque, French and modern elements. At times playful, other times somber, the songs begin firmly rooted in the Baroque, with the modern, jazzy elements on display in the final song ‘Pavana’. Parša adds the needed lighter touches, as well as more serious interpretations to make this a particularly memorable performance of the song cycle.
Parša also sings on the second song cycle on the record – ‘Carmina antica’, with song texts from Ancient Greek literature (sung in Latvian). Here Parša’s voice interplays with the other instruments in the ensemble, particularly the flute, to create a kind of duet. This work has a more theatrical nature, with Parša expressing a range of emotions and thoughts with her voice, and the orchestra also adding to the narrative with their performance, particularly in the dramatic third song – ‘Traģiskā monodija no Mēdejas’ (Tragic Monody from Medea).
Zariņš also wrote larger scale works, including multiple organ concertos, the first two of which are included on this album, both of which feature organist Aigars Reinis. While many Latvian composers are known for their bleak, harsh music, Marģeris Zariņš stands out as someone who wrote uplifting, energetic music full of vitality. Such is the first organ concerto – ‘Concerto innocente’, where Reinis provides a rousing performance, and the classic organ is joined by the modern electric guitar. Such is Zariņš’ compositional skill that he can bring together these two rather disparate instruments and create a fluid, flowing work that neither instrument sounds out of place with the other.
The second organ concerto – ‘Concerto triptichon’ is weightier, more pensive. However, this concerto has a more defined melodic line – like something out of popular music, and the performance of Kremerata Baltica elevates Zariņš’ music, revealing melodic details and the deep, personal nature of this composition.
In many ways, Marģeris Zariņš was a revelatory, revolutionary composer, quite capable of composing some truly beautiful music. Bridging the two halves of the 20th century, he found inspiration throughout musical history and the world and created memorable works that remain compelling listening today. Kremerata Baltica and conductor Andris Veismanis, along with guests Ieva Parša and Aigars Reinis, have recorded a revelatory album that hopefully brings the music of Marģeris Zariņš to a worldwide audience.
For further information, please visit the Skani website
Kremerata Baltica, conductor Andris Veismanis
LMIC/SKANi 128, 2021
Partita in Baroque Style for mezzo-soprano and instrumental ensemble
1. I. Variācijas
2. II. Galjarda
3. III. Intrada un kadence
4. IV. Saltarella
5. V. Menestrels
6. VI. Pavana
Carmina antica for mezzo-soprano and instrumental ensemble
7. I. Pāns ar flautu
8. II. Eoliešu kitāra
9. III. Traģiskā monodija no Mēdejas
Concerto No. 1 for organ and chamber orchestra Concerto innocente
10. I. Allegro gaio
11. II. Andante pensieroso
12. III. Allegro volando
Concerto No. 2 for organ and chamber orchestra Concerto triptichon
13. I. Ciborium
14. II. Mensa
15. III. Predella
Four Japanese Miniatures, Kristaps Pētersons, instr.
16. I. Ļoti viegli, vienādi, nesteidzoties
17. II. Adagio
18. III. Andante
19. IV. Allegro vivo