Gifted Latvian pianist Zariņš melds classic and modern in one album

Latvian pianist Reinis Zariņš was the ‘artist in residence’ at Latvian Radio Klasika in 2018, which, among other benefits to the artist, provides a regular opportunity to not just perform, but to also have a significant say in repertoire. A multiple winner of the Latvian Great Music Award, Zariņš, who has performed throughout Europe and the United States, also works closely with Latvian composers and presents new works.

Among the compositions that have been dedicated to Zariņš is ‘Astoņstūris. Epizodes un sonāte’ (Octagon: Episodes and Sonata), a solo 8 movement piano cycle by Andris Dzenītis. Zariņš has placed this new cycle alongside another well-known 8 movement piano cycle – ‘’Kreisleriana’ by Robert Schumann. Zariņš recorded both cycles and released an album of them in 2019 entitled Kreisleriana. Octagon.

At first glance, besides each composition having 8 parts, there is very little similar between Dzenītis’ modern cycle and Schumann’s Romantic era cycle. Zariņš himself admits he ‘can’t precisely point out’ what links the two, beyond each series being a very personal composition and Dzenītis’ work having some Romantic elements in it.

Zariņš proves to be an adept interpreter of the tortured Schumann’s work. The Kreisleriana series goes through some rather dramatic and abrupt mood swings, from the nearly frantic first in the series ‘Äußerst bewegt’, and then in the much slower, resigned sixth section ‘Sehr langsam’. The final section, the playful ‘Schnell und spielend’ makes for a very dynamic showcase of Zariņš’ interpretive talents,

According to the liner notes, ‘Kreisleriana’ is based on the E. T. A. Hoffman character Kreisler, but with Schumann possibly drawing autobiographical parallels with him. One can sense that this work is a personal favorite of Zariņš’, considering the energy and fire he brings to the performance, Zariņš truly turns this into a kind of story. It is a work that Zariņš has performed many times throughout his life, and his familiarity and respect for the composition results in a highly satisfying performance.

The shift to Dzenītis’ ‘Octogon’ is a bit jarring, considering the centuries between the composition of these works. However, the first piece in the ‘Octogon’ series, the subdued and wispy ‘Elpot’ (or ‘Breathe’) is perhaps more of a prelude for the others, as its title would indicate, it provides a moment to take a breath, before the shrill, uneasy second piece – ‘Cikāžu roks’ awakens the listener with its bursts of sounds and moments of tense silence.

Dzenītis, much like one of his instructors, composer Pēteris Vasks, often includes themes of nature in his compositions, and ‘Octogon’ is full of them, such as in the brief ‘Dzeņa atbalss’ (Woodpecker Echo), where Zariņš goes as far as to tap on the piano itself, replicating the sound of the woodpecker.

Perhaps the most ‘traditional’ piece in the cycle is the melodic ‘Latviešu romance’ (Latvian Romance), where Dzenītis weaves together elements of dreams and sorrow to create a very tender, melancholic atmosphere, and Zariņš performance of the work is filled with nuance and emotional depth.

Dzenītis’ cycle ends with the longer piece ‘Triptihs-ikona’. The cycle is, per the composer, also inspired by travels in Greece, and this piece reflects ‘monasteries perched on the cliffs of ancient Meteora’, among other sacred elements, and brings the work to a meditative, peaceful conclusion.

With this pair of rather disparate solo piano cycles, Zariņš shows his skill in interpreting both well known Romantic works of another era such as Robert Schumann’s ‘Kreisleriana’ as well as more modern and abstract work such as Andris Dzenītis’ ‘Octagon’. Equally at home in both the classic and the modern, Zariņš, a truly gifted pianist, presents both works vividly and memorably.

For further information, please visit Reinis Zariņš website and the Skani website

Reinis Zariņš, piano

Kreisleriana. Octagon.

LMIC/SKANI 071, 2019

Track listing:


1. Äußerst bewegt

2. Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch

3. Sehr aufgeregt

4. Sehr langsam

5. Sehr lebhaft

6. Sehr langsam

7. Sehr rasch

8. Schnell und spielend


9. Elpot

10. Cikāžu roks

11. Zaļās ēnas

12. Dzeņa atbalss

13. Sv. mehānika

14. Latviešu romance

15. Sonāte

16. Triptihs-ikona

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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