Latvian soprano Inga Kalna, over many decades, has earned worldwide renown for her opera roles. In London she was La Contessa in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, in Hamburg she performed Stella in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and she had many notable roles in Latvia, including Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème and Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Though most of her singing career was in operatic roles, Kalna also excels in solo performances. One of the most notable recent solo concerts she gave was in 2016, at the Dzintari Concert Hall, where, accompanied by pianist and former classmate Diāna Ketlere, she gave a recital of solo songs by German composer Richard Strauss, as well as Latvian composers Jānis Mediņš and Alfrēds Kalniņš. This performance won a Latvian Great Music Award in 2016, and the singer and pianist recorded and released an album with the works entitled Das Rosenband in 2020.
All three composers could be considered Late Romantics (late 19th century / first half of the 20th century), and there are similarities and trends that can be observed in their works. Kalna weaves together these songs into an almost seamless whole, confirming the works of the Latvian composers can readily stand alongside the work of Strauss.
Ketlere’s delicate, sensitive piano performance provides a lovely foundation for Kalna’s rich and nuanced vocals, including her earnest rendition of Strauss’ ‘Allerseelen’ (poetry by Hermann von Gilm), a somber song that celebrates the flowers placed on graves on All Souls’ Day in November, while reminiscing about a love in May.
Kalna’s resonant voice also shines in a stirring rendition of Jānis Mediņš’ ‘Glāsts’ (poetry by Atis Ķeniņš), imbuing the performance with longing, up until the final line ‘tevi meklēs gars vēl mans’ (My soul will search for you).
The theme of the approaching night is referenced in the text of both Strauss’ ‘Die Nacht’ (poetry by Hermann von Glim) and Mediņš’ Nocturno (poetry by Andrass or Alfrēds Andersons). Both works are steeped in dramatic resignation, and Kalna’s delivery of lines like ‘Alles nimmt sie, was nur hold’ ([The night] takes all that is fair) and ‘Viss nogrimst dusā’ (Everything sinks in slumber) adds a poignancy to these songs.
Themes of darkness also appear in Kalniņš’ ‘Jau aiz kalniem, jau aiz birzēm’, with poetry by Andrievs Niedra, a tale of listening to a wanderer’s song. Ketlere’s piano gives the song a dreamy atmosphere, while Kalna’s expressive and vivid vocals relate the narrator’s thoughts on what the wanderer might be singing about, even though it results in the narrator’s sadness – ‘bet manā sirdī mostas gaužas žēlabas’ (but bitter grief awakes in my heart).
The CD booklet includes a few brief notes on the concert program, and brief biographies of the three composers, but, curiously, does not include much information about Kalna or Ketlere. All the song texts are provided, all with English translation.
Inga Kalna calls upon her decades of experience on the stage to make for a truly engaging and absorbing performance on Das Rosenband. Confidently confirming that the solo songs of composers Alfrēds Kalniņš and Jānis Mediņš can stand on equal footing with the works of Richard Strauss, Kalna, along with accompanist Diāna Ketlere, whose piano playing is integral to the success of these performances, bring together these many treasures of late Romanticism and reveal their lyrical and musical beauty.
Inga Kalna, soprano
LMIC/SKANI 083, 2020
1. Richard Strauss Allerseelen, Op. 10 No. 8
2. Jānis Mediņš Uz brītiņu (For a moment)
3. Richard Strauss Morgen!
4. Alfrēds Kalniņš Efeja vija (The ivy)
5. Richard Strauss Breit’ über mein Haupt, Op. 19 No. 2
6. Jānis Mediņš Aicinājums (Invitation)
7. Richard Strauss Zueignung, Op. 10 No. 1
8. Alfrēds Kalniņš Jūras vaidi (The moaning of the sea)
9. Richard Strauss Ruhe, meine Seele!, Op. 27 No. 1
10. Alfrēds Kalniņš Ūdens lilija (The water lily)
11. Richard Strauss Das Rosenband, Op. 36 No. 1
12. Jānis Mediņš Jaunā mīla (New love)
13. Jānis Mediņš Glāsts (The caress)
14. Alfrēds Kalniņš Minjona (Mignon’s song)
15. Richard Strauss Die Nacht, Op. 10 No. 3
16. Jānis Mediņš Nocturno
17. Richard Strauss Heimliche Aufforderung, Op. 27 No. 3
18. Alfrēds Kalniņš Jau aiz kalniem, jau aiz birzēm (Beyond the hills, beyond the groves)
19. Richard Strauss Cäcilie, Op. 27 No. 2