Sinfonietta Rīga perform contemporary Latvian composers’ works on recent CD

The Sinfonietta Rīga chamber orchestra has been led by conductor and artistic director Normunds Šnē since the ensemble was founded in 2006. One of the goals of the ensemble is to promote new orchestral compositions by Latvian composers, and they have worked with dozens of Latvian composers throughout their decade and a half of performance.

A recent example is a collection of works by composers Andris Dzenītis, Platons Buravickis, Linda Leimane, and Ruta Paidere, released at the end of 2021. The disparate and eclectic compositions reveal the depth and variety of modern Latvian academic music.

Andris Dzenītis, a composer in his mid 40s, has, in his many decades of composition, already created a large and diverse body of work. His contribution to this collection is the comparatively brief (six minute) Euphoria, an overture for chamber orchestra. Though a shorter work, it presents a concentrated and distilled example of Dzenītis’ musical vision. The work is meant as a tribute to the late composer Pēteris Plakidis, whose orchestral works also had expansive, dramatic elements. Euphoria begins in a celebratory mood, but then quickly dissolves into an uncertain, tense atmosphere – perhaps this is meant as Dzenītis presenting both the actual euphoria, as well as the many after-effects of euphoric feelings.

Platons Buravickis, still in his early thirties, has already established himself with his compositions, at times experimental, at times romantic, his works encompass a broad range – from intimate chamber music pieces to large scale orchestral works. This collection presents his Concerto for Saxophone Plastmases temperatūra (Temperature of Plastics) featuring saxophonist Aigars Raumanis. The work has an environmental theme – it could be interpreted as a warning to humanity about pollution. Accordingly, the work has an ominous, foreboding tone – punctuated by Raumanis’ saxophone performance.  Raumanis has both flighty, delicate solo phrases (perhaps representing birds?) which alternate with interactions with the harsh, crashing percussion of the orchestra. There is barely any respite from the harshness throughout the work, even to the very end, when the work crescendos into what sounds like an alarm, then ends suddenly.

Composer Linda Leimane’s works are full of emotion and drama, such as Ray-Bows, included on this collection. Neither the CD booklet nor the composer’s website offers much in the way of programmatic notes (save for the score, which says ‘Brutally, hearts of iron’) so it is entirely up to the listener to interpret the work for themselves. The work is filled with dramatic tension, and is in a near constant state of motion, with frequent rising arpeggios, perhaps suggesting flight.

Hamburg-based Latvian composer Ruta Paidere’s work Tempera is a contrast to the other works on this collection – Paidere’s composition is calmer, quieter, with a kind of meandering quality. Paidere builds textures using the sounds of the orchestra, layering one on top of another, occasionally harmonious, but occasionally discordant. There is a sense of unease throughout the work, as small changes in tone have an unsettling effect, a sense of unsteadiness. The work has a long, gradual crescendo before quietly dissipating at the conclusion.

Sinfonietta Rīga and conductor Normunds Šnē reveal the many layers and textures of these four works. Technically difficult (requiring a skillful orchestra, such as Sinfonietta Rīga), deep, dramatic – these compositions by Andris Dzenītis, Platons Buravickis, Linda Leimane, and Ruta Paidere display both a broad spectrum of sounds and emotions, as well as compositional skill and creativity.

For further information, please visit the Skani website and the Sinfonietta Rīga website.

Dzenītis, Buravickis, Leimane, Paidere

Sinfonietta Rīga, conductor Normunds Šnē

LMIC/SKANi 130, 2021

Track listing:

  1. Euphoria – Andris Dzenītis
  2. Concerto for Saxophone Plastmases temperatūra (Temperature of Plastics) – Platons Buravickis
  3. Ray-Bows – Linda Leimane
  4. Tempera – Ruta Paidere

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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