The Liepāja Symphony Orchestra has long had close relationships with many Latvian composers. The Orchestra actively promotes new works, and many composers have written works dedicated to the Orchestra or works for the Orchestra to premiere. This culminated with the Liepāja Concerti project, where twelve Latvian composers were invited to compose a concerto for the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra to perform and record.
The first volume, entitled Liepāja Concerti Vol. I, was released in 2017, and contained concertos by composers Rihards Dubra, Vilnis Šmīdbergs, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Juris Karlsons and Kārlis Lācis, and was released by the Odradek record label.
The second volume, Liepāja Concerti II, was released in 2018 by the Latvian national record label Skani, and the two CD collection contains works by composers Kristaps Pētersons, Andris Dzenītis, Arturs Maskats, Andris Vecumnieks, and Platons Buravickis. All the works are from live performances conducted by former artistic director of the LSO, Atvars Lakstīgala.
Kristaps Pētersons’ Second Liepāja Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, a single movement work, begins with a tentative, plucked cello melody, performed by Kristīne Blaumane. Blaumane’s cello performance is full of sound effects, reflecting the variety of sounds the cello can produce. As the orchestra joins in, the tension rises within the work, with Blaumane’s cello at times harsh, other times ominous. At times it even sounds like Blaumane is in conflict with the orchestra, almost in battle, or perhaps trying to escape. This conflict continues until the subdued conclusion of the work, which ends with a few wistful, barely audible cello tones.
A crash of piano, performed by celebrated Latvian pianist Vestards Šimkus, introduces the First Liepāja Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, by Andris Dzenītis. Entitled ‘Duality’, which, as per the composer, is meant to reflect the suffering and misery that can arise when something is divided. The composer even uses the word ‘anarchy’ when describing the work, and this is certainly a description that many listeners will think of, considering the way the instruments seem to thrash against each other. The weighty one movement work, at almost forty minutes, can be an exhausting, even terrifying listen. However, there are moments of serenity and calm which balance out the more turbulent elements, and Šimkus provides a bravura performance throughout this challenging work, particularly in the range of emotions displayed in the extended piano solo section.
The third concerto in this collection, Arturs Maskats’ Twelfth Liepāja Concerto for Piano and Orchestra offers a rather dramatic contrast with the first two works. Maskats is known for his melodic, even delicate works, and his three movement concerto features many of the often theatrical flourishes the composer is known for. Pianist Reinis Zariņš crafts an engrossing atmosphere, particularly in the second movement, entitled ‘Dances for the Moonlight’, where Zariņš’ piano flows together with the sound of the orchestra to conjure a romantic evening.
The Trio ‘Art-I-Shock’ feature on composer Andris Vecumnieks’ Fifth Liepāja Concerto ‘Concertino Art-I-Shock’. The trio, made up of Guna Šnē on cello, Elīna Endzele on percussion and Agnese Egliņa on piano, provide an energetic and nuanced performance. Though the work has five movements, each is brief, almost like individual miniatures, which come together to form a multicolored performance. At times playful and even humorous, other times sentimental, Vecumnieks weaves together French, Italian, and his own elements to create a vivid engaging musical story.
The final work in the collection, composer Platons Buravickis’ Eleventh Liepāja Concerto for Voice and Orchestra features the vocal talents of soprano Julianna Bavarska. Bavarska’s singing, a wordless vocalize, is often beautiful, but also tense, soaring above the deliberate, methodical performance of the orchestra. The music, which at times sounds like a military march, particularly in the staccato brass instruments, is at times relentless in its progress, while Bavarska’s voice is in a near-constant state of motion, not seeming to pause at all.
The five works on Liepāja Concerti II highlight the broad universe of sound and style that can be found in modern Latvian academic music. From passages of harsh dissonance to moments of sublime beauty, conductor Atvars Lakstīgala and the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra lead listeners through a myriad of sonic explorations and journeys and prove themselves to be peerless interpreters of these diverse and dynamic works that highlight the creative abilities of Latvian composers.
Liepāja Concerti II
LMIC / SKANI 065, 2018
1. Kristaps Pētersons – Second Liepāja Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, dedicated to Visvaldis Ziediņš
Kristīne Blaumane, cello
2. Andris Dzenītis – First Liepāja Concerto for Piano and Orchestra “Duality” (2010) / 40:42
Vestards Šimkus, piano
Arturs Maskats – Twelfth Liepāja Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2017) / 27:56
Reinis Zariņš, piano
1. Dances for the Spring Rain and Wind
2. Dances for the Moonlight
3. Dances for the Dawn
Andris Vecumnieks – Fifth Liepāja Concerto “Concertino Art-i-Shock”
Trio Art-i-Shock: Guna Šnē, cello; Elīna Endzele, percussion; Agnese Egliņa, piano
4. Grazioso I
5. Quasi valse. Con sentimento
7. Quasi valse. Senza sentimento
8. Grazioso II
9. Platons Buravickis – Eleventh Liepāja Concerto for Voice and Orchestra (2016)
Julianna Bavarska, soprano
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