25 years of Kremerata Baltica with works of Plakidis, Pētersons and Pelēcis

Since its founding in 1997, the Kremerata Baltica string chamber orchestra, led by its namesake, Latvian born violin maestro Gidon Kremer, has become one of the premiere string ensembles worldwide. Bringing together the finest talents from the Baltic States, the group has toured throughout the world and won numerous awards.

Throughout its quarter century of performance, Kremer and Kremerata Baltica have also championed the works of Baltic composers. To celebrate their 25th anniversary, and to also celebrate the work of Latvian composers, the ensemble released the album ppp in 2022, collecting works by Latvian composers whose last name ends in ‘P’ –  Pēteris Plakidis, Kristaps Pētersons, and Georgs Pelēcis.

Another interpretation of the album’s title – ppp – would be the musical term pianississimo, or, ‘very, very quiet’, and while there are many quiet moments on the album, there is still much energy and fire (and volume) in the performances. Plakidis, who passed away in 2017, provides the “Little Concerto for two violins” for this collection. While not truly a ‘concerto’ – only Kremer and violinist Madara Pētersone perform this work, the interplay between the two violins gives the work an orchestral feel. The melancholic second movement – “Vakara mūzika” (Evening Music) displays Plakidis’ skill with melody, as well as Kremer’s and Pētersone’s talents in revealing the aching emotion and sadness in the work. The third movement – “Ceļš” (Road) – has more tension, but concludes in a celebratory atmosphere, with the two violins creating vivacious fanfares.

The next composer to be spotlighted on the album is Kristaps Pētersons, who has contributed three compositions to this collection. The first is “Ground” for double bass solo, performed by the composer himself. The slow, deliberate and very quiet performance is punctuated by sudden percussive sonic effects (which sound like the performer striking the instrument with his bow), giving the work an ominous, uneasy atmosphere. This is followed up by the mathematical “π = 3,14” for two double basses (Pētersons is joined by Iurii Gavrilyuk also on double bass, as well as Andrei Pushkarev on vibraphone). Perhaps inspired by the mysterious, unending sequence of decimal places of π, the work is full of mystery, perhaps it is a search for something that cannot be found. Pushkarev’s vibraphone adds an additional enigmatic layer to the work, adding to the captivating mood.

Pētersons also provides the three movement “Music for a Large Ensemble”, which is performed by the new ensemble Kremerata Lettonica (formed during the pandemic, and made up of musicians from Latvia). The brief first movement begins with ominous rumbling,  while the second is built upon a pulsating, repeating string motif, while the other instruments circle around in a meditative ascension. The first two movements are also characterized by sonic explorations, and even the composer himself comments that these movements are “monotonous dead ends of sounds”. The harsher third movement, featuring an uneasy electric guitar performance by Pētersons, builds up the tension only to dissipate with a plaintive squeal of strings. The musicians of Kremerata Lettonica skillfully reveal the many nuances and layers in Pētersons’ complex work.

With his beautiful and melancholy works, composer Georgs Pelēcis has made a name for himself worldwide, and his popularity continues to grow, aided by his fruitful, long-term collaboration with Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica. On this album, the ensemble presents Pelēcis’ ‘Three pieces from Fiori Musicali’, which displays many of the elements that have distinguished Pelēcis, particularly his Baroque-inspired melodic lines and emotionally rich atmospheres. The work is directly inspired by music of that era, as per the CD booklet, the composer “named this blooming garden Fiori Musicali after Girolamo Frescobaldi’s collection of liturgical organ music from the 17th century.” Kremerata Baltica capture the tender essence and melancholic beauty of Pelēcis’ music, resulting in a moving and soul-stirring performance.

In the hands of singularly talented musicians such as Gidon Kremer and the musicians of Kremerata Baltica, these works by Plakidis, Pētersons and Pelēcis are elevated to a lofty musical perch. Though the music and styles of the three composers are markedly different, the ensemble reveals the many unique facets of each of the works, and, at the same time, displaying the creative talents of these composers. ppp is both a testament to the creative skills of these three composers as well as to the instrumental talent of Gidon Kremer and the musicians of Kremerata Baltica.

For further information, please visit the Kremerata Baltica website and the Skani website.


Kremerata Baltica

LMIC/SKANi 139, 2022

Track listing:

Pēteris Plakidis

Mazs koncerts divām vijolēm / Little Concerto for two violins

1 I. Sadziedāšanās / Singing Together

2 II. Vakara mūzika / Evening Music

3 III. Ceļš / The Road

Kristaps Pētersons

4 Ground kontrabasam solo / for double bass solo

5 π = 3,14 diviem kontrabasiem, sitaminstrumentiem un ierakstam / for two double basses, percussion, and recording

Mūzika lielam ansamblim / Music for a Large Ensemble

6 I. ♪ = 124

7 II. ♪ = 82

8 III. ♪ = 124

Georgs Pelēcis

Trīs skaņdarbi no krājuma Fiori Musicali / Three pieces from Fiori Musicali

9 Vientuļā kalla / The Lone Calla

10 Peoniju deja / Dance of the Peonies

11 Kosmejas skumjas / Cosmea Melancholy

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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