Linda Leine performs Georgs Pelēcis’ haunting Gadalaiki cycle

Quietly and gradually, composer Georgs Pelēcis has become one of the best known and beloved composers from Latvia. His music has been listened to millions of times on streaming services, entrancing listeners all over the world with its seeming simplicity, but with rich melodies and emotional depth. With early music being a major influence, his works often echo themes and musical ideas from the Baroque and Renaissance eras.

Among his works for piano, a notable entry is the Gadalaiki (Seasons) cycle, a six-work cycle (the four seasons plus two additional works relating to the New Year), composed over the course of more than forty years, and the entire cycle comes to be about one hundred minutes of music. Latvian pianist Linda Leine’s recording of all the entries in the Gadalaiki cycle was released in 2022.

Each of the works in the cycle is a larger form work (each work is between fifteen to twenty-five minutes in length), which allows for Pelēcis to fully develop and expand the melodic themes in each piece, providing for an immersive listening experience for the listener.

The cycle begins with ‘Jaungada mūzika’ (New Year’s Music), which begins gently, almost deliberately, sounding much like a formal dance, but then gradually starts gaining in energy and tempo. The work, the first to be composed in the cycle (in 1977), perhaps most exhibits his Renaissance and Baroque influences (conjuring a New Year’s celebration from that era), and the work gently flows from celebratory sounds to more contemplative melodies, and pianist Leine’s performance brings forth the needed delicateness and precision.

A sense of trepidation fills the opening minutes of ‘Pavasara mūzika’ (Spring Music), perhaps to evoke a wintry landscape prior to the arrival of spring. Then the solemn and melancholic mood, over time, begins to include more positive elements, while still retaining a somber atmosphere, and Leine deftly reveals the many aspects of this work in her layered performance.

The longest work in the cycle is the twenty-five minute ‘Vasaras mūzika’ (Summer Music), and throughout its expansive runtime, it creates a vivid panorama of summer, replete with both blissful warm days as well as summer storms. Adeptly moving between the moments of tension and delicate reflection, Leine brings out the many vivid colors in the work.

The somber ‘Rudens mūzika’ (Autumn music) then leads into the pensive, placid ‘Ziemas mūzika’, which builds to a resounding, joyful crescendo. The cycle then concludes with a return to the New Year – ‘Jaunais gads atkal klāt’, written more than forty years after the initial work in this cycle. Retaining the celebratory atmosphere of the earlier work, Pelēcis continues to bridge the centuries in his music, and Leine, with both precision and emotion, completes this musical journey through the year.

Some listeners may find the music to be a bit too calm, though there are occasional moments of fire and energy, the bulk of the music is in a meditative, reflective style. Certain themes may be repeated possibly a few too many times, so there is the occasional sense that Pelēcis could potentially have trimmed some of the works. However, perhaps that is part of the charm of Pelēcis’ music, that these repeated, deceptively simple themes give his works a dream-like quality, like a leisurely, lengthy walk during each of the seasons.

Beautiful, haunting, affecting are all words that could be used to describe the music of Georgs Pelēcis, and it is perhaps no surprise that his music has found many sympathetic ears and has moved listeners all over the world. Full of not just melodic beauty, but also spiritual positivity, Pelēcis’ music has a singular richness and resplendence. Pianist Linda Leine’s skills with melody, deep appreciation of the music and attention to detail makes Gadalaiki a rewarding musical journey.

For further information, please visit Linda Leine’s website  and Georgs Pelēcis page at the Latvian Music Information Center.

Georgs Pelēcis – Gadalaiki

Linda Leine, Piano

LMIC/SKANi 137, 2022

Track listing:

1. Jaungada mūzika

2. Pavasara mūzika

3. Vasaras mūzika

4. Rudens mūzika

5. Ziemas mūzika

6. Jaunais gads atkal klāt

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.

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