It is an ironic truism in the music world that a musician’s death always raises interest in the musician’s work. Album releases follow, sometimes with new music, more often re-releases of earlier works. The archives will be searched for previously unreleased songs and albums will undoubtedly follow. In a somewhat perversely positive way, songs that might have never seen the light of day while the musician was alive are then brought to listeners.
Case in point – pianist, vocalist and composer Uldis Stabulnieks. The composer of a treasure trove of songs, Latvia mourned his passing on September 27, 2012. By far his most beloved composition was the song ‘Tik un tā’, with words by Māra Zālīte, which, considering that the song was released in the early 1980s, was a song of love for Latvia (unusual as it was to even mention ‘Latvia’ in songs during Soviet times).
With just this one song, Stabulnieks earned his star in the constellation of Latvian music. However, right as he reached the zenith of his popularity, Stabulnieks seemed to drift into obscurity. Though still active as a composer and performer, his creative output seemed to diminish in quantity through the years – in the 1990s and beyond the composer almost completely disappeared, though he still performed occasionally at hotel bars in Riga.
The release of the posthumous Es mīlu dzīvi skaistoat the end of 2012 was a pleasant surprise as it didn’t seem to be common knowledge that Stabulnieks was still actively composing and recording songs. The most striking thing about these recordings is that no time at all seemed to have gone by – the songs contained on the CD could have just as easily come from the 1980s as after the turn of the century (these songs were recorded from 2005 to 2007). Having not lost a bit of his flair as a musician and a singer, it is quite the pity that these songs needed to wait for his death before they could be heard.
The scat vocals of the title track ‘Es mīlu dzīvi skaisto’ (lyrics by Jānis Rokpelnis), along with Stabulnieks’ creative vocal gyrations giving the song a particular joie de vivre corresponding with the lyrics of the song. The performance shows that Stabulnieks had not lost any energy or enthusiasm in his later years, or even humor, with which the music is imbued.
The song ‘Kā ūdens nemitīgs’ (lyrics by Jānis Ziemeļnieks) is a more somber song, with Stabulnieks reaching a crescendo on Ziemeļnieks’ text ‘likteni, kas spēcīgs, spožs un skarbs’ (a fate that is powerful, vivid and bitter).
All the songs feature Stabulnieks on piano (or synthesizers) and vocals, and though Stabulnieks is better known as a composer, his piano talents cannot be overlooked – such as on the song ‘Mazs putniņš’ (lyrics by Vizma Belševica), with the melancholic piano performance providing a lovely background for the wistful lyrics, particularly the repeated refrain ‘tu nāc, tu ej’ (you come, you go).
Stabulnieks’ humor is once again on full display when he sings about cheese in the song ‘Sieru dziesmiņa, dziedama ap Jāņiem’ (lyrics by Guntars Godiņš). With a playful piano background, Stabulnieks sings about saying goodbye to cheese rolling away ‘kas stipri smaržo un kas nikni ož’ (that has a strong scent and smells bad)
Stabulnieks also composed five different songs with the same text by Jānis Sudrabkalns in ‘Piecas variācijas par Jāņa Sudrabkalna tēmu “Tāls vakars”’. Deftly moving through various styles and tempos, Stabulnieks displays a range of emotions and feelings that distinguishes all of the variations. Ranging from somber to humorous, each song has a different perspective on Sudrabkalns’ poetry.
One of the best known of poems by Aleksandrs Čaks, one of the most popular 20th century Latvian poets, is his love letter to Riga, and on this CD Stabulnieks puts music to ‘Vecā, sirmā Rīga’, with its powerful words “Ak, mana Rīga, vecā, sirmā Rīga, Tu manu sirdi augšup nes!” (Oh my Riga, my old gray Riga, you carry my heart upwards!) The earnest and sincere words by Čaks are given a fitting musical form in this celebration of the city.
Some might say that one of the reasons Stabulnieks faded from public view is the fact that his style did not change much with the times – where other composers like Raimonds Pauls and Imants Kalniņš explored new musical avenues and worked with younger singers, Stabulnieks continued to compose in his own style and stubbornly sang almost all of his songs himself. That is perhaps what is so commendable and enjoyable about this collection, as these songs contain some truly beautiful moments, like in ‘Zviedru vārtu romance’ – the song would have been the worse off had it been someone besides Stabulnieks singing. Though it took his passing before it was released, the collection of songs on Es mīlu dzīvi skaisto still show that Stabulnieks had not lost a bit of his creative energy and his obscurity was undeserved and unfortunate. Fortunately, Stabulnieks’ talents will not soon be forgotten, and Es mīlu dzīvi skaisto is a fitting epitaph to this composer’s career.
Es mīlu dzīvi skaisto
1. Es mīlu dzīvi (J. Rokpelnis)
2. Kā ūdens nemitīgs (J. Ziemeļnieks)
3. Mazs putniņš (V. Belševica)
4. Melodija (O. Vācietis)
5. Mežs (I. Ziedonis)
6. Par sliedēm (J. Peters)
7. Sieru dziesma (G. Godiņš)
8. Tango (J. Peters)
Piecas variācijas par Jāņa Sudrabkalna tēmu “Tāls vakars”
9. Variācija #1 (J. Sudrabkalns)
10. Variācija #2 (J. Sudrabkalns)
11. Variācija #3 (J. Sudrabkalns)
12. Variācija #4 (J. Sudrabkalns)
13. Variācija #5 (J. Sudrabkalns)
14. Vecā Rīga (A. Čaks)
15. Zviedru vārti (Ē. Ādamsons)
16. Kāds smilšu graudiņš (J.Sudrabkalns)
© 1995-2023 Latvians Online
Please contact us for editorial queries, or for permission to republish material. Disclaimer: The content of Web sites to which Latvians Online provides links does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Latvians Online, its staff or its sponsors.