A rising piano star performs Garūta, Messiaen

Zvaigznes skatiens

Among the many rising stars in Latvian classical music is young pianist Dzintra Erliha. A 2007 master’s graduate of the Latvian Academy of Music, she has already built up a very impressive résumé, including performances worldwide (Canada, Estonia, Brazil, Iceland and Latvia), collaborations with well-known Latvian singers such as soprano Maija Kovaļevska and bass Krišjānis Norvelis, and work with famed pianist Arturs Ozoliņš.

One thing that becomes immediately clear when reading her credentials is her fondness for Latvian composer Lūcija Garūta. It should come as no surprise then that on her first self-produced compact disc of solo piano music, released in 2008 and entitled Zvaigznes skatiens / Regard de l’etoile, she focuses on Garūta, as well as on French composer Olivier Messiaen. In fact, the CD was dedicated to the 100th birthday of Messiaen (in 2008) and the 105th birthday of Garūta (in 2007).

Garūta is probably best known for her cantata “Dievs, Tava zeme deg!” and, as part of the cantata, the choral arrangement of “Mūsu Tēvs debesīs” (The Lord’s Prayer). It is a staple and beloved work that most every Latvian choir performs. The cantata is hauntingly beautiful and tragic at the same time, considering it was composed in 1943 in the midst of World War II. To most listeners, it is the only work of Garūta’s they know, as it was with me prior to hearing the CD. This is a shame, really, since the piano works here are truly as engaging and captivating as the cantata.

The works by Garūta on this CD include “Sendienas”, “Etīde Teika” and four preludes (B minor, E Major, C sharp minor and D flat major). “Sendienas” (The Old Days) is particularly notable for Erliha’s reflective, yet not overwhelmingly sentimental (if a bit melancholy), performance. There is also the wondrous, fantastic feel of “Etīde Teika” (Etude Legend), as if Erliha was describing something amazing and unbelievable in her performance.

Messiaen is represented by selections from his “Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus” (Twenty Gazes on the Child Jesus) suite for piano, considered one of his greatest works. Of the 20 gazes, seven are heard on the CD. The series of works was written at a time when France also was experiencing the horrors of World War II. Interestingly, at first listen, these works do not sound much like traditional sacred works. They all have a very modern and unique style. For example, Erliha ably performs with the gravity required in Gaze No. 12, “La parole toute-puissante” (The All Powerful Word), as well as the celebratory yet deeply serious Gaze No. 13, “Noël,” and the meditative and tender Gaze No. 19, “Je dors, mais mon coeur veille” (I Sleep, but My Heart Keeps Watch).

The accompanying booklet contains biographies of Erliha, Garūta and Messiaen in Latvian, English and French.

Erliha’s Zvaigznes skatiens is certainly worth checking out for any fans of Latvian or French piano music, as you have impeccable performances of piano works by both Garūta and Messiaen. Particularly noteworthy are the performances of the works of Garūta, who, apart from her cantata, is underrepresented in recent recordings of works by Latvian composers. This excellent CD goes a long way to correct that. It is clear that Erliha is truly a rising “star” among Latvian pianists.


Zvaigznes skatiens / Regard de l’etoile

Dzintra Erliha


Track listing:


Etīde Teika

Prelīde si minorā

Prelīde mi mažorā

Prelīde dodiez minorā

Prelīde rebemol mažorā

Nr.1 Tēva skatiens

Nr.2 Zvaigznes skatiens

Nr.4 Jaunavas skatiens

Nr.9 Laika skatiens

Nr.12 Vārds ir visuvarens

Nr.13 Ziemassvētki

Nr.19 Es guļu, bet mana sirds ir modra

On the Web

Dzintra Erliha

The artist’s Web site includes her résumé, news of concerts and downloads of music. EN LV

Where to buy

Purchase Zvaigznes skatiens / Regard de l’etoile from BalticMall.

Purchase Zvaigznes skatiens / Regard de l’etoile from BalticShop.

Note: Latvians Online receives a commission on purchases.

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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