Kaspars Dimiters releases new songs on double album “Ievainotie”

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kaspars Dimiters recently celebrated his 60th birthday. To mark that occasion, he released the career spanning collection Ielūgums uz dzīvi in 2017, a collection of one hundred songs recorded over his many decades of activity. The collection certainly reaffirmed Dimiters’ place as one of the truly great Latvian songwriters.

However, Ielūgums uz dzīvi should not be considered to be a sign that the songwriter is slowing down. Dimiters continues to actively write and record songs, and, in 2018, he released Ievainotie, a double album of new songs (though it does include a few tracks that were included on Ielūgums uz dzīvi).

The themes and mood of Ievainotie (or ‘The Wounded’) can already be sensed when viewing the stark, blood-red cover of the album. Indeed, this collection of songs veers more towards the personal (rather than the political), and has many elements of pain and personal hardship, though still tempered with the occasional hopeful, even cheerful moment. Overall, though the album does deal with the ‘wounds’ we receive in life, there is the possibility to survive all of this with the help of love and spiritual assistance and guidance.

Certainly, there are still songs that are critical of Latvian society, as well as what he considers to be potentially dangerous and treacherous trends, including the broad indifference that he sees in many. The song ‘Dzīvnieku dziesma’ has a long list of common complaints in Latvia, such as small pensions and wages, politicians, the media, poor teachers, all of which have been blamed for the difficult state that Latvia has been in since regaining independence. Dimiters counters that by saying that this is the price of freedom, and this freedom released many savage, animalistic elements within people, who have abandoned both civility and God. A similar warning is presented in ‘Ūdens ir pienācis slieksnim’, where he postulates that society has reached a point of no return, and how ubiquitous technology, though it may bring people together virtually, is doing significant harm socially.

Though most of the songs are of a relaxed and somber nature, there are still moments of liveliness and even levity, as can be heard in the song ‘Meža elektriķis’. The slightly absurd yet humorous song about replacing pine cones in the forest with light bulbs perhaps reveals Dimiters’ beliefs in the power of nature. One does wish that there were more songs like this on the album though, as this offers a respite from the often dour songs on the album.

Dimiters offers a requiem for the Latvian lats ‘Balāde zilbei’. The lats, which was removed from circulation twice (once after Soviet occupation, the second more recently when it was replaced by the Euro), was and remains a symbol of Latvian sovereignty. The five lats coin was a symbol of hope during the occupation, and Dimiters song is about how this one syllable contained much of Latvia’s strength, and, though it has been since replaced, the power in this one syllable remains.

The album concludes with the gently flowing ‘Vingrotājs aleluja’, which, at first glance is a curious song about a gymnast that sings ‘Hallelujah’, but, like many of Dimiters’ songs, is influenced by Christian texts and beliefs, and this song was inspired by the phrase ‘train yourself for godliness’ (from 1 Timothy 4:7). The song could even be considered hopeful, with its message that perhaps if we strive to be better, things may very well start improving.

Though now entering his seventh decade of life, Kaspars Dimiters shows no sign of slowing down, as the twenty-five songs on Ievainotie will attest to. Dimiters still has much to say and is as loquacious as ever, as many of the songs have a dozen or more verses. Though certainly, overall, a mellow and somber collection, perhaps indicating that Dimiters himself has mellowed, but Ievainotie still does contain many songs that are deeply, perhaps even uncomfortably personal, and Dimiters perhaps wisely avoids some of the more controversial and provocative, if not alienating, themes and thoughts he has expressed in some of his earlier songs. As a result, though often bleak, the album is one of Dimiters’ most satisfying works, and could be considered among his most seminal albums like Mans kumoss pilsētas baložiem and Krusta skola. Ievainotie confirms Dimiters’ status as one of the premiere songwriters in Latvia.

For further information, please visit the Kaspars Dimiters website at www.kasparsdimiters.lv.

Ievainotie

Kaspars Dimiters
2018

Track listing:

  • 1. Ievainotie
  • 2. Dieva siltā kabatiņa
  • 4. Pēdējās kalponītes dziesma
  • 5. Esi laimīgs vienkāršībā
  • 6. Tīrie ūdeņi
  • 7. Es pelnos neiršu bet burtos
  • 8. Audējas ziemsvētku dziesma
  • 9. Es tevi mīlu jau
  • 10. Tu nenojaut, kas aiz loga
  • 11. Nāve ir dzimšanas diena
  • 12. Visu visu sapratīsim
  • 13. Bēniņos apglabātās vēstules
  • 14. Baloži un lielgabali
  • 15. Vēl dzīvam uzvarēt nāvi
  • 16. Vēstule sargeņģelim
  • 17. Ūdens ir pienācis slieksnim
  • 18. Dzīvnieku dziesma
  • 19. Blokāde
  • 20. Viņu mīlestība nebeidzās
  • 21. Meža elektriķis
  • 22. Ielūgums uz dzīvi
  • 23. Fukušimas suns
  • 24. Balāde zilbei
  • 25. Vingrotājs aleluja

Egils Kaljois 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.

The Three Osokins record Latvian solo piano works

Georgijs, Sergejs and Andrejs Osokins, collectively known as the Three Osokins, are three of the most distinguished and accomplished piano players in Latvia. Father Sergejs, as well as two sons Georgijs and Andrejs, have been performing together since 2015, both as a trio as well as with orchestras. All three have been awarded the Latvian Great Music award (Sergejs in 2004, Andrejs in 2008, and Georgijs in 2015).

To commemorate Latvia’s 100th birthday in 2018, all three recorded works for solo piano by Latvian composers. The CD, entitled The Three Osokins in Latvian Piano Music, was released by the Latvian national record label Skani as part of the Latvian Centenary series. The album collects piano works written throughout Latvia’s history to, as the artists have stated, “show our country’s music in all of its splendor and diversity”.

The youngest Osokins, Georgijs, performs two works by composer Pēteris Vasks – ‘Vasaras vakara mūzika’ and ‘Baltā ainava’. Like many other Vasks works, themes of nature are woven throughout these pieces, and Georgijs provides the necessary dramatic flourishes, with moments of calm and tranquility balanced with mysterious and ominous elements, particularly in ‘Baltā ainava’, with its wintry scene that is at times full of wonder, but at other times there is an uneasy tension, and Georgijs provides a vivid portrayal of this chilly vision.

Sergejs Osokins performs works by Jānis Zālītis and Jānis Ivanovs for his contribution to this collection. Zālītis’ piano compositions are not as well-known as his songs for choir and solo voice, but, in the hands of Sergejs, these piano pieces (all of which are brief miniatures) reveal a similar kind of lyricism and musical flow that are in Zālītis’ choir works, such as the playful ‘Mazurka’ or the appropriately sentimental ‘Reminiscence’.

The works by Ivanovs are two sets of preludes, the first set from the early 1950s, and the second from the late 1970s. The early 1950s were an era of severe repression in Latvia, and artists needed to express a kind of ‘socialist realism’ in their works – a need to express how genuinely ‘happy’ everyone was in the Soviet Union. However, even with these artistic constraints, Ivanovs was still able to create memorable piano compositions that, in Sergejs’ performance of them, are lively and energetic. Sergejs contrasts these with the later preludes, composed near the end of Ivanovs’ career, which are more somber and have a kind of resignation about them, and provide for a fascinating comparison with the earlier preludes.

The most recent composition on this collection is Artūrs Maskats’ ‘Kazbegi: Tsminda-Sameba’, which was actually dedicated to Andrejs Osokins. The work, inspired by a journey Maskats took to the Tsminda Sameba (Holy Trinity) monastery in the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. The nearly twelve minute work, which includes many elements of reverence and awe, builds in intensity as it reaches its thunderous conclusion, and Andrejs provides a memorable and engaging performance of this mountainous musical landscape.

Andrejs Osokins concludes the album with a collection of works by the founder of Latvian classical music, Jāzeps Vītols. These provide for a lyrical and beautiful musical journey, from the tender lullabies ‘Dusi saldi, mans bērns’ and ‘Šūpļa dziesma’, to the colorful imagery in ‘Viļņu dziesma’, where Vītols describes the waves by his summer home in Pabaži on the coast of the Gulf of Rīga, both majestic and tempestuous, and Andrejs makes this scene come alive in his performance.

All three Osokins – Sergejs, Andrejs, and Georgijs, have come together to create an immensely satisfying and enjoyable collection of piano works by Latvian composers on The Three Osokins in Latvian Piano Music. Spanning more than a century, these pieces allow the listener to travel throughout Latvian musical history, from the early 20th century to today. The performances reveal the many facets and features of Latvian piano music, from the serene to the stormy, from the hopeful to the resigned. All three of the Osokins vividly display their talents for interpretation and performance, and confirm not only their own abilities, but also the rich and abundant treasures that can be found in Latvian piano music.

For further information, please visit the Skani website.

The Three Osokins in Latvian Piano Music

The Three Osokins
Skani, LMIC/SKANI 060, 2018

Track listing:

    • Pēteris Vasks

      1. Vasaras vakara mūzika / Music for a Summer Evening
      2. Baltā ainava / White Scenery

Ādolfs Skulte

      1. Arietta

Jānis Zālītis

      1. Albuma lapa / Album Leaf
      2. Mazurka mi minorā / Mazurka in E minor
      3. Poēma / Poem
      4. Prelūdija / Prelude
      5. Reminiscence
      6. Viegla jūsma / Subtle Delight
      7. Mazurka Sol bemol mažorā / Mazurka in G-flat major

Jānis Ivanovs

Piecas prelūdijas / Five Preludes (1952-1953)

      1. Allegro moderato
      2. Allegretto
      3. Andantino
      4. Andante moderato
      5. Allegro

Piecas prelūdijas / Five Preludes (1976-1979)

      1. Andante
      2. Allegretto
      3. Moderato
      4. Senza tempo (moderato)
      5. Allegro molto

Arturs Maskats

      1. Kazbegi: Tsminda-Sameba

Jāzeps Vītols

      1. Dusi saldi, mans bērns / Berceuse, op. 41 No. 1
      2. Mazurka / Mazurka, op. 9 No. 1
      3. Valsis / Valse, op. 9 No. 2
      4. Prelūdija / Prelude, op. 16 No. 2
      5. Šūpļa dziesma / Lullaby, op. 18 No. 1
      6. Viļņu dziesma / Song of the Waves, op. 41 No. 2

Georgijs Osokins (1.-3.)

Sergejs Osokins (4.- 20.)

Andrejs Osokins (21.-27.)

 

Egils Kaljois 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.

Portland State Chamber Choir records Ešenvalds’ choir work

With his keen sense of melody and harmony, as well as the ability to create captivating and absorbing choir works, it is no surprise that Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ compositions have delighted and enchanted both listeners and performers worldwide.

Beyond simply including his works in their repertoires, many choirs also have begun recording his works. One such example is the Portland State Chamber Choir, conducted by Ethan Sperry, who recorded an album of Ešenvalds’ compositions entitled The Doors of Heaven. Released in 2017 on the Naxos label, the CD contains four Ešenvalds choir compositions, including the larger opus ‘Passion and Resurrection’.

Ešenvalds has often been inspired by the legends of various cultures, and, on a journey to Greenland, he learned of the Inuit legend of Raven, a being who created the world, but also brought destruction to it. The work is less a song but more a story in musical form, as it retells the legend through the voices and singing of the choir. Aided by traditional instruments and singing, the choir weaves a vivid and evocative retelling of the story, particularly the thunderous and tragic ending.

Many of Ešenvalds’ journeys were specifically associated with researching the Northern Lights phenomenon, and this has been another major source of inspiration for the composer. One such work is ‘Rivers of Light’, a composition that combines Sami Scandinavian melodies with quotes from British explorers who were seeing the Northern Lights for the first time. Ešenvalds fuses these two visions into one cohesive, flowing whole, and the choir brings forth both aspects in the works, especially the wonder of the explorers.

One of Ešenvalds’ most popular and best known works, ‘A Drop in the Ocean’, has been performed and recorded by many choirs (such as the youth choir Kamēr…, as well as the Latvian Radio Choir, to name but a few). This work, based in part on writings by Mother Theresa, is a deeply spiritual composition, but also a work of great humility, as Theresa wrote that all her work was ‘nothing but a drop in the ocean’. Beginning with the Lord’s prayer, then continuing with one of St. Francis of Assisi’s prayers and sections of Psalm 55, and concluding with Mother Theresa’s writings, Ešenvalds creates a work that is at times full of peace, but also has moments of harshness, and the choir adroitly reveals all of these musical elements.

The CD concludes with the four part oratorio ‘Passion and Resurrection’, and the choir is joined by the Portland State University String Ensemble. Combining elements from a number of different sacred texts, Ešenvalds has created a unique interpretation of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Soprano Hannah Consenz gives a memorable performance, including the expression of sins as taken from the Byzantine Liturgy, which is then balanced by the choir singing about forgiveness. Ešenvalds’ music for the actual crucifixion is harrowing and terrifying, as the intensity builds and climaxes with the choir repeatedly singing ‘crucify’ in harsh and almost violent tones as the string ensemble erupts in an explosion of sound. The work concludes on a meditative note, with the choir and soprano alternating ‘Mariam’ and ‘Rabboni’.

Ešenvalds fans would also be well advised to seek out the CD Wandering Heart (2016) recorded by the Choir Leoni (Eric Lichte, Artistic director), as that album also has some of Ešenvalds works for men’s chorus (including world premiere recordings of men’s choral arrangements of some of his best known works such as ‘Stars’ and ‘Long Road’, as well as the first recording of his cycle ‘Wandering Heart’ with lyrics by the late Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen).

The Portland State Chamber Choir’s The Doors of Heaven is yet another testament of Ēriks Ešenvalds singular ability and talent to compose choir compositions that resonate with choirs and listeners all over the world. The CD will be of interest both to those well familiar with Ešenvalds’ works, as well as those discovering them for the first time. In the hands of conductor Ethan Sperry, these performances are given lives of their own, which is appropriate, considering that many of the works are retelling of stories and legends. The Doors of Heaven is both an excellent recording and a document of Ešenvalds’ compositional skills and abilities.

For further information, please visit Ēriks Ešenvalds’ website, and the Portland State Chamber Choir website.

Ēriks Ešenvalds – The Doors of Heaven

Portland State Chamber Choir
Naxos, 8.579008, 2017

Track listing:

  • 1. The First Tears
  • 2. Rivers of Light
  • 3. A Drop in the Ocean
    Passion and Resurrection
  • 4. Part I
  • 5. Part II
  • 6. Part III
  • 7. Part IV

Egils Kaljois 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.