Liepāja Symphony Orchestra bring to life works of 12 Latvian composers

One of the most ambitious projects in Latvian academic music history was the ‘Liepāja Concerti’ project – the commissioning of twelve concertos by twelve different Latvian composers, to be performed and recorded by the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Atvars Lakstīgala. Over the course of the past decade, the composers, taking inspiration from the city of Liepāja, began producing a wide variety of musical offerings, meant not just to showcase Liepāja and its orchestra, but also the broad compositional talents of Latvian artists.

The concertos were also recorded, and the first set of recordings appeared in 2017. Entitled Liepāja Concerti Vol. I, the two CD set showcases concertos by Latvian composers Rihards Dubra, Vilnis Šmīdbergs, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Juris Karlsons and Kārlis Lācis, and it was released by the Odradek record label.

A mournful piano melody begins Rihards Dubra’s Liepāja Concerto No. 3 for piano and orchestra. Pianist Endijs Renemanis brings Dubra’s music vibrantly to life, as the single movement work grows in intensity as it quickly reaches a dramatic crescendo. In the middle of the work, the work takes a sudden turn from the intense atmosphere to a more introspective mood, as Renemanis, along with the orchestra, present a new facet to this performance, akin to a solitary stroll along a deserted beach in the Kurzeme region of Latvia. The final section of the work is majestic and vibrant, as the piano and orchestra come together in a thunderous, almost explosive, conclusion.

The first movement of Vilnis Šmīdbergs’ Liepāja Concerto No. 8 for violin and orchestra presents a mysterious atmosphere, with violinist Ilze Zariņa performing a mystical and magical melody. The second movement continues this development, developing into an ominous and almost frightening climax, as Zariņa’s violin acts as a kind of a narrator for the work, displaying a range of emotions and reactions. The final moment is full of tension, and its rapid tempo adds to the disquieting and uneasy ambience of the work. The orchestra provide an engrossing performance, all the way to the sudden and unexpectedly quiet end.

Natural phenomena have provided much inspiration for composer Ēriks Ešenvalds, and that is reflected also in his Liepāja Concerto No. 4 ‘Visions of Arctic Night’ for clarinet and orchestra. Much of the work is of a fleeting, temporal nature, much like the Northern Lights, yet has a richness and fullness, perhaps reflecting the Kurzeme region as well. Clarinetist Ints Dālderis presents these visions almost like painting a picture, bringing together the various colors and sounds to reveal these nocturnal scenes, particularly in the dramatic third movement.

The title of Juris Karlsons’ Liepāja Concerto No. 9 is ‘Gliese 581’, and was inspired by the discovery of the red dwarf star Gliese 581, whose planets are theorized to be able to generate and sustain life. These cosmic and universal elements pervade through this work, and Karlsons has said that the work is about ‘searching, erring, finding and longing’, and the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra adeptly and adroitly bring forth all these elements in their performance, particularly in the middle section, where the orchestra sounds like ticking clocks, further enhancing the elements of space and time in the work.

The final concerto on this collection is Kārlis Lācis’ Liepāja Concerto No. 10 ’42.195’ for flute, oboe, and orchestra, and the numerical title indicates the number of meters in a marathon. As the work is inspired by running, there is a sense of constant movement, reflected in the performances of flutist Miks Vilsons and oboist Pēteris Endzelis. Though also a very dramatic work, the work distinguishes itself with the occasional light-hearted, even humorous, moment, such as the grand waltz that appears early in the work, as well as the jubilant and vivacious middle section.

Conductor Atvars Lakstīgala and the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra have brought these disparate works vividly to life, revealing the many different styles and approaches of Latvian composers. Over the course of these two CDs, listeners will hear the many facets and elements of Latvian academic music, all adeptly presented by the orchestra and soloists.

For further information, please visit the Odradek Records website and the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra website.

Liepāja Concerti Vol I

Liepāja Symphony Orchestra

Odradek, ODRCD362, 2017

Track listing

CD 1

  1. Rihards Dubra – Liepāja Concerto No. 3 for piano and orchestra
  2. Vilnis Šmīdbergs – Liepāja Concerto No. 8 for violin and orchestra – I. Andante moderato
  3. II. Andante
  4. III. Presto

CD 2

  1. Ēriks Ešenvalds – Liepāja Concerto No. 4 for clarinet and orchestra – I. Inquieto – Misterioso
  2. II. Espressivo – Misterioso
  3. III. Maestoso – Grave – Limpido
  4. Juris Karlsons – Liepāja Concerto No. 9 ‘Gliese 581’
  5. Kārlis Lācis – Liepāja Concerto No. 10 ‘42.195’ for flute, oboe and orchestra

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.

Wide spectrum of Pērkons’ lesser-known gems now released

Latvian rock group Pērkons were one of the most popular, as well as significant, rock groups during the 1980s. Their songs provided much of the soundtrack for the Latvian Reawakening during the late 1980s, and even though the group fell foul of the Soviet authorities on more than one occasion, their popularity could not be diminished. Many of their songs, particularly their earliest songs, had a raw energy and unpolished roughness that provided a marked contrast with the polished, if occasionally bland, Latvian popular music of the early 1980s.  Pērkons also used the poetry of a younger generation of Latvian poets for their lyrics – poets like Māris Melgalvs and Klāvs Elsbergs. Even today, many of their songs still resonate – songs like ‘Balāde par gulbi’, ‘Zaļā dziesma’, ‘Mēs pārtiekam viens no otra’, among many others, are still beloved and sung today.

Throughout its history, Pērkons has been led by keyboardist, composer, and occasional vocalist Juris Kulakovs. The group also includes vocalists Ieva Akurātere (who would later become one of the most recognizable voices of the Latvian Singing Revolution), Juris Sējāns (bass, vocals), Leons Sējāns (lead guitar), Raimonds Bartaševics (vocals), as well as opera singer and current Latvian Minister of Culture Nauris Puntulis on vocals.

Though the group has remained active in the decades since, their last proper album was released in 1991. Also, when their original albums were released on three best of CDs, to get everything to fit on one CD, a number of the songs on the original album were dropped. To collect some of these missing songs, as well as to properly release some songs recorded after 1991, Pērkons released the collection entitled 7os no rīta in 2018. The set gathers songs both old and new, covering their many decades of activity.

One of the more curious omissions from the CD that covered their earliest years was the song ‘Kukurūza’, which, as the title might indicate, is a song about corn. Strange because this song remains one of their most popular. The song, with lyrics by Klāvs Elsbergs, is perhaps a oblique parody of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s decree that more corn should be grown in the Soviet Union (after a visit to the United States). Or perhaps it is a warped romanticized view of live on the collective farm or kolhozs. Either way, it is a Pērkons trademark – a song that is both catchy and, at the same time, a slight dig at the Soviet regime of the time.

Also likely appearing on CD for the first time is their early 1990s song ‘Kāzas’, a beautiful and sad song about the end of a relationship, with its repeated refrain ‘tās nav mūsu kāzas’ (that is not our wedding), and it shows a more lyrical and emotional facet of the group. Another welcome inclusion is the brief but tender ‘Vakars klāt’, a delicate lullaby that often closed out the group’s concerts.

Still, some of these hidden gems might have been left hidden, for example ‘Vēršu (horoskopa) dziesma”, a bizarrely distorted song that includes melodies from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen while Kulakovs raps somewhat incomprehensibly. It is unclear if the song is meant to be satire or parody, perhaps more of an experiment that did not quite work out.

Unfortunately, the CD package doesn’t include any information about the songs. It would have been interesting to know when they were recorded, or even perhaps a few thoughts about the songs (many of Pērkons’ songs had a deeper meaning that may not be immediately clear to listeners). It also not a complete collection of unreleased tracks – there are still songs from the original albums yet to be released on CD – songs such as ‘Sastrēgumstunda’ and ‘Viss rudens’ are unfortunately omitted.

7os no rīta collects a number of gems from the many decades of Pērkons’ recording history. From their earlier rough, almost punk songs, to their later polished and intricately arranged songs, from the deeply serious to the absurd, if not outright silly, Pērkons is a band that have long been ingrained in the fabric of Latvian rock music. Though one does wish that they would record a proper album of new material, this collection is a welcome gathering of many of their otherwise unreleased songs, and a testament to the talent of the band as well as leader Juris Kulakovs.

For further information, please visit the Pērkons Facebook page.

7os no rīta



Track listing

  1. Fly (Lidojums)
  2. 18. Novembris
  3. Mūžs
  4. Zvaigznīte
  5. Es gaidu brīnumu
  6. Tramvajs
  7. Tu
  8. Tutu
  9. Kā pasakā
  10. Vēršu (horoskopa) dziesma
  11. 7os no rīta
  12. Kukurūza
  13. Kāzas
  14. Taureņi ir brīvi
  15. Meitene (lili)
  16. Līgavai
  17. C. M. Bellam epistule nr. 82 (Ulla)
  18. Vakars klāt

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.

Amerikas latvieši dāvina Latvijas skolēniem 40 datorus

Lai bērniem Latvijā ārkārtas situācijas laikā nodrošinātu pilnvērtīgas iespējas piedalīties attālinātajā mācību procesā, Amerikas Latviešu Apvienība organizēja ziedojumu vākšanas akciju, kuras rezultātā 40 ģimenes Latvijā saņems portatīvos datorus  24 500 ASV dolāru vērtībā.

Līdz ar ārkārtas situācijas izsludināšanu koronovīrusa Covid-19 izplatības dēļ un pieņemto lēmumu mācību procesu skolās nodrošināt attālināti, daudzām ģimenēm Latvijā attālinātais mācību process kļuvis par lielu izaicinājumu. Daudziem bērniem trūkst viedierīču, lai varētu iesaistīties šādās mācībās. Vissmagāk šī situācija skar bērnus, kas jau ilgus gadus ir Amerikas Latviešu apvienības (ALA) nozares Sadarbība ar Latviju rūpju lokā – trūcīgas un daudzbērnu ģimenes.

Amerikas Latviešu apvienība, kas ir lielākā latviešu organizācija, ASV, kopā ar   ilggadējo sadarbības partneri Latvijas Bērnu fondu un laikraksta Laiks informatīvo atbalstu, noorganizēja līdzekļu vākšanas akciju, ziedojot datoru iegādei. Akcijas organizētāji pateicas SIA Cadence par palīdzību datoru aprīkošanā ar nepieciešamo programmatūru.

“Datorus saņems tās daudzbērnu un audžuģimenes, kas šobrīd jau saņem vai iepriekš ir saņēmušas ALA stipendijas. Šīs ģimenes savulaik apzinātas sadarbībā ar sociālajiem dienestiem. Iegādātie 40 datori jau tuvākajās dienās tiks nodoti ģimenēm. Latvijas Bērnu fonds un, protams, pirmkārt, jau pašas ģimenes, ir ļoti pateicīgas ziedotājiem un Amerikas Latviešu apvienībai par šo vērtīgo dāvinājumu!” informē Latvijas Bērnu fonda vadītājs Andris Bērziņš.

Amerikas Latviešu Apvienības nozares Sadarbība ar Latviju vadītāja Kaija Petrovska: “Mēs esam pateicīgi visiem ziedotājiem, kas šajā grūtajā laikā iedomājas un palīdz bērniem Latvijā, lai viņi nejustos aizmirsti un  turpinātu savu izglītību.”

Par Amerikas Latviešu apvienību:

ALA ir organizācija, kas apvieno ap 100 tūkstošiem latviešu Amerikas Savienotajās Valstīs.  Apvienības sadarbība ar Latvijas Bērnu fondu sākās 1994. gadā, par prioritāti izvirzot palīdzības programmu Drošais Tilts, kuras mērķis ir sniegt palīdzību grūtībās nonākušām ģimenēm un bāreņiem Latvijā. Šajā laikā no apvienības nozares Sadarbība ar Latviju līdzekļiem Latvijas ģimenēm un studentiem atbalsta stipendiju veidā piešķirts vairāk nekā trīs miljoni dolāru.

Par Latvijas Bērnu fondu:

Latvijas Bērnu fonds dibināts 1989. gadā, tā darbības mērķis ir bērnu un jauniešu aizsardzība, attīstības veicināšana un izglītošana, veselības nostiprināšana, ģimeniskā audzināšana un īpaši talantīgu bērnu atbalstīšana. Latvijas Bērnu fonds izstrādā un realizē dažādus projektus, kas sniedz praktisku palīdzību bērnu grupām un atsevišķiem bērniem, kuriem nav vecāku, kuri nonākuši krīzes situācijā, smagi slimiem, kā arī talantīgiem bērniem, kuriem pietrūkst līdzekļu sava talanta attīstībai.

Papildu informācija:

Veronika Butāne, Latvijas Bērnu fonda projektu vadītāja

Tel. 29238947;