‘Distant light’: sacred and secular compositions for trumpet and organ

The organ and the trumpet feature on the album Distant Light, released in 2020 by the Latvian national record label Skani. Performed by trumpetist Jānis Porietis and organist Ilze Reine, this slightly unusual combination of instruments has still generated interest and contributions from Latvian composers, and Distant Light, with eleven compositions by eight different composers, displays the many textures and sound palettes that are available when putting the trumpet and organ together.

Composer Maija Einfelde supplies two compositions to this collection, ‘Zvaigžņu kalns’ (Hill of Stars) and ‘Gloria’. ‘Zvaigžņu kalns’ ir a work for solo trumpet, and Porietis’ rich and melodious sound enriches this work, making the long notes of the work almost float and soar in the distance. On ‘Gloria’, Porietis is joined by Reine, and this work, as its title would suggest, is celebratory, almost triumphant. However, as with many of Einfelde’s works, there are still moments and flashes of darkness and harshness, as the organ suddenly becomes weighty, the trumpet becomes contemplative, and the work has a somber tone, but returns to elation at the work’s conclusion.

Rihards Dubra, a composer whose works often are deeply spiritual, provides ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Agnus Dei’, two works inspired by the Christian mass. ‘Kyrie’, as befitting a prayer, has Reine performing a tender, fragile melody in the organ, while Porietis’ trumpet sounds as if at a distance. ‘Agnus Dei’ is more contemplative, reserved. Dubra commented that his goal with these works is to make the trumpet a kind of ‘singer’, and Porietis’ performance resembles a vocal melody, as the trumpet and the organ both soar to the conclusion of the work.

Along with Einfelde’s ‘Gloria’, Dubra’s ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Agnus Dei’, composer Alvils Altmanis contributes additional mass sections – ‘Sanctus’ and ‘Benedictus’. Though the sections are by three different composers, the works flow together with Reine and Porietis providing the overarching spiritual foundation for the performance. Altmanis’ ‘Sanctus’, a song of praise, is weighty, yet calm, with Porietis’ soft tones layered on top of Reine’s understated performance. ‘Benedictus’ is even more reserved, with a very gentle trumpet melody together with a quiet, reflective organ song.

“Jūras paņemtajiem” (To Those Taken by the Sea), a work by Ilze Arne, is dedicated to those who have lost their lives at sea and is a work full or tragedy and longing for those lost. Porietis’ trumpet playing is expressive, while Reine’s gently flowing organ imbues this work with sadness and melancholy.

Romualds Jermaks’ ‘Lux Aeterna’ continues the spiritual themes of many of the works on this album, and is a gentle prayer for peace, while Dzintra Kurme-Gedroica’s expansive ‘Quo vadis’, the longest work on the album, is a contemplative, philosophical work, pondering questions of humanity and where are we all headed.

‘Larghetto from the Concerto for Trumpet’ by Goergs Pelēcis, one of the earliest works on this collection, is also envisioned as a walk around Tempļa iela, a street in the Pāŗdaugava area of Rīga. Porietis and Reine conjure up an image of a solitary evening walk, of cobblestones and wooden houses.

Renāte Stivriņa’s ‘Gaviles’ (Rejoicing), a work inspired by the Latvian Song Festival, also uses the sound of the trumpet to mimic a human singing voice and is perhaps the most Latvian of all the works on the album – a celebration of singing and the importance of song throughout Latvia’s history.

Besides displaying the skills of trumpetist Jānis Porietis and organist Ilze Reine, Distant Light also reveals the singular skills of many Latvian composers, their ability to compose distinct and individual works for this combination of instruments. The resonance of the trumpet and the richness of the Rīga Cathedral organ, throughout compositions both sacred and secular, make for a rewarding listen.

For more information, please visit the Skani website

Distant Light

Jānis Porietis – trumpet, Ilze Reine – organ

LMIC/SKANi 094, 2020

Track listing

  1. Maija Einfelde – “Zvaigžņu kalns”
  2. Rihards Dubra – Kyrie
  3. Maija Einfelde – Gloria
  4. Alvils Altmanis – Sanctus
  5. Alvils Altmanis – Benedictus
  6. Rihards Dubra – Agnus Dei
  7. Ilze Arne – “Jūras paņemtajiem”
  8. Romualds Jermaks – Lux aeterna
  9. Dzintra Kurme-Gedroica – “Quo vadis”
  10. Georgs Pelēcis – Larghetto no Koncerta trompetei
  11. Renāte Stivriņa – “Gaviles”

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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