Young musicians’ master classes in July now in their 10th year


2012 Master Class participants in the “Baltais flīģelis” Concert Hall in Sigulda. Photo: Alberts Linarts.

The 10th International Latvian Young Musicians’ Master Classes, with the theme – New Dimensions in Music –  took place from July 14 to 23 in the spacious and welcoming Sigulda Arts School “Baltais Flīģelis” . 

A total of 16 concerts were held in Rīga, Sigulda Castle and the beautiful “Baltais Flīģelis” Concert Hall in Sigulda to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the master classes, held biannually in Latvia since 1994.  The directors of the master classes were Dr. Ingrīda Gutberga (USA) and Normunds Vīksne (Vice-Rector of Academic Work at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music), Dace Aperāne (USA) was artistic director and Guntars Zvejnieks (Director of the Sigulda Arts School) – the administrator of the master classes.  The core program, consisting of lectures, master classes, individual lessons and free concerts was created in 1985 for the 1st Latvian Music Camp held at the Mount Orford Arts Centre in Quebec. 

At the opening ceremony, Mārtiņš Štauvers, founder of the music camps in Canada and editor of the master classes’ two newspapers, encouraged each of the participants to become a special “note” during their time at the master classes.

Throughout the 9 day professional music program master classes were held in piano, strings, percussion and woodwind instruments, composition, conducting, music pedagogy, voice, vocal and instrumental jazz, as well as chamber music, chamber orchestra, chorus and John Cage’s “Songbooks” ensemble rehearsals.  98 young musicians from a number of music high schools in Latvia, the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, the Rīga Teacher Training and Educational Management Academy and music institutions in Lithuania, Germany and Switzerland all participated with a wonderful sense of dedication and purpose in their musical studies, activities and concerts. 

One of the most moving concerts was the 10th anniversary concert in which alumni from all of the master classes and even the 3rd music camp in Mount Orford performed on the stage of “Baltais flīģelis”.  The newly-published book Mūzikas nometņu stāsti was presented before the concert.

The participants and teachers came from 10 countries: Latvia, Lithuania, France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Greece and the United States.  The faculty of outstanding musicians and guest lecturers consisted of many former master classes’ participants, such as the pianist Lauma Skride, oboist Egils Upatnieks, composers Gundega Šmite, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Andris Dzenītis, Mārtiņš Viļums and Rolands Kronlaks.  Chamber music ensembles were coached by Gunta Sproģe (JVLMA Chamber Music department chair), pianist Lauma Skride, duo pianists Antra and Normunds Vīksne, flutist Dace Bičkovska and composer Pēteris Plakidis. 

Artists and instructors from North America – Rasma Lielmane (violin, Mexico), Uga Grants (piano, USA), Pauls Berkolds, Jacqueline Bobak, Mark Bobak (Vir2ual Cage ensemble, USA, , Vija Vētra (dance, USA), Anita Kuprisa (conducting, USA), Janet Lawson (jazz vocalist, USA), Dana Paul Perna (composer, USA),  Europe – Gunārs Larsens (violin, Switzerland), Andra Dārziņa (viola, Germany), Nigel Smith (France),  Lauma Skride (piano, Germany),  Mārtiņs Viļums (composer, Lithuania) and Dimitri Maronidis (composer, Aristotle University, Greece), Asia – Anna Etsuko Tsuri (lighting designer, Japan) and Australia – Janis Laurs.  Latvian Radio 3 – Klasika and Estonian Klassikaraadio included the master classes in their “Radio Classics Project” and produced a special video about the master classes (

A series of lectures and discussions concerning New Dimensions in music pedagogy were led and coordinated by Aurika Gulbe (Rīga Teacher Training and Educational Management Academy) and Gunta Melbārde (Jāzeps Mediņš First Music School).  Composer Pēteris Vasks encouraged an audience of music teachers to devote more time to the teaching of Latvian chamber and other music.  Pianist Liene Circene described her experiences in working with young children in an Orff-based music program at the Sigulda Arts School.  Many lecturers, such as Kaspars Bikše, Diāna Zandberga, Pauls Berkolds, Artūrs Cingujevs, Valters Pūce and Guntars Zvejnieks discussed a variety of topics relating to new developments in methodology, interdisciplinary approaches, performance practices and technology.  Gundega Šmite (Chairperson of the Latvian Composers’ Union) led and coordinated a series of lectures and activities for the Composition master classes, based on new electronic and computer technology.  One of the guest lecturers was the American composer Dana Paul Perna who spoke about music composition in the Digital Age.

The Latvian Minister for Culture, Žaneta Jaunzeme-Grende, attended the closing concert of the master classes and in congratulating young musicians, called on them to develop their individual and unique talents as fully as possible.  A concert of Latvian orchestral music under the direction of conductor Normunds Dreģis (Latvia) and choral music under the direction of Anita Kuprisa (USA) and Jānis Baltiņš (Latvia) brought the master classes to a jubilant conclusion, with many students expressing a great interest in returning to the next master classes in 2014.

From the beginning of the master classes’ opening concert, with different colors lighting up the Baltais flīģelis stage, to the John Cage students’ ensemble concert at the Spīķeri Concert Hall in Rīga, the theme of “New Dimensions in Music” was explored through lighting, music, improvisation, movement, video and poetry.  The young participants, ranging in age from 16 to 22,  were eager to explore these many dimensions and did so with great creativity, flair and enthusiasm.

The International Latvian Young Musicians’ Master Classes are unique, as they are the only master classes in Latvia that offer a comprehensive and varied program in almost all music disciplines, with a particular emphasis on Latvian music. The participation of Latvian and non-Latvian teachers and performers lends a special energy to the program.  Since the master classes are not a festival, donations and grant monies from Latvian organizations and individuals in North America and Latvia, as well as student participation fees, provide the main sources of funding.

Young musicians from music high schools, academies, conservatories and universities are encouraged to consider participating in the XI International Latvian Young Musicians’ Master Classes, with the theme “The Baroque and Our Time”, from June 30 to July 9, 2014 once again in Sigulda, Latvia.  Information will be posted soon on the following website:


Chamber orchestra of the Master classes. Photo: Alberts Linarts.


Artistic director of the Master classes, Dace Aperāne. Photo: Alberts Linarts


Romantic duets showcase Vaice and Mok


For their debut recording, Romantic Duets, two gifted and young singers, soprano Sonora Vaice of the Latvian National Opera, and tenor Warren Mok, frequent guest artist of the LNO, have recorded eight duets from six renowned Italian operas: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and L’elisir d’amore, Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Traviata, as well as Puccini’s La Boheme and Madame Butterfly.

The tone color of Vaice’s bright yet passionate voice is elegantly matched by Mok’s clear and ardent singing. The excellent sonics have a vibrant quality well-suited to the soloists’ separate and combined vocal textures, which while easily encompassing both dramatic and lyrical operatic styles, in most of the tracks on this disc, tend to emphasize the former. Under the fine direction of maestro Normunds Vaicis, the Latvian National Opera Symphony Orchestra performs with great finesse, creating a pleasing dynamic balance with the timbre of the singers’ voices.

First on the disc are the three Donizetti duets: “Lucia, perdona…Sulla tomba che rinserra,” “Una parola, o Adina…Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera” and “Caro, Elisir, sei mio?…Esulti pur la barbara.” All make a striking impression, with both singers performing their virtuoso parts with dazzling ease and fervor.

My favorite performances on this release were those of the Verdi duets: “Signor ne principe…E il sol dell’ anima,” “Libiamo, libiamo ne’lieti calici” and “Amato Alfredo…Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo…Ah non piu…a un tempio…,” since in all three the singers’ phrasing has a very natural and appealing flow. It should be noted that in 1992, Vaice made her operatic debut with the LNO as Gilda in Rigoletto. As heard on this disc, the interpretation of Gilda and Duca’s duet is dynamically and emotionally engaging, while Alfredo and Violeta’s duet from Act 1 is especially memorable for its lyricism.

To their performances of Puccini’s supremely masterful duets: “O soave fanciulla” and “Vieni la sera,” Vaice and Mok bring a fresh interpretation that is often technically and emotionally electrifying.

After listening to this recording, it is easy to understand why Christa Ludwig has described Vaice as “a great musician” and why, in writing about one of Warren Mok’s performances, the English Guardian newspaper has written: “His technique is rock solid, with beautiful, even timbre…”

To my knowledge, the particular compilation of duets chosen for this recording has not been reproduced on recent operatic releases, and so provides a welcome complement to the collections of operatic duets currently available. This charming recording, produced by the notable Latvian recording company, UPE, is certain to make a valuable addition to all opera lovers’ libraries.

(Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on


Romantic Duets

Sonora Vaice and Warren Mok

UPE Recording Co.,  1999