Here is another disc that was splendid accompaniment to my coffee and apartment chores today. I was listening to Vask's relatively brief (8 minutes) "Cantabile for String Orchestra" recently and I had forgotten how lovely it is - it's now one of my favorite works by the Latvian composer. Needless to say the performances throughout this collection are simply stellar. "Presence" is my favorite piece here although the solo cello work too is a great listen. "Musique du Soir" depicts a solemn night indeed, one that feels a bit too familiar as of late.
Making things easier for me at current, here is a review from Gramophone:
The Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks (who turns 70 this April) first encountered the Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta when he accepted an invitation to attend her annual chamber music festival in Switzerland (where she now resides). Fascinated by Vasks’s music ever since she heard his 1978 piece for solo cello Grāmata čellam at the age of 18, the persistent Gabetta eventually persuaded the initially reluctant composer to write her a concerto (his second for the instrument).
Luminously scored for cello with string orchestra and lasting around 35 minutes, it bears the title of Presence – and here let me quote from Vasks’s own descriptive notes – ‘by which I mean that I am here. I am not distant. With every breath I am here in this world, with all my ideals and dreams of a better world.’ He also explains how the work ‘is dominated by a mood that suggests the soul ascending into the cosmos. I was then inspired to conjure up the idea of the soul returning to earth and starting a new life. And then I had the idea of giving musical expression to this new beginning in life in the form of a lullaby.’ I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s an ear-pricking device he also employs in the rapt second part of Grāmata čellam (the final item on the disc). The concerto is cast in three movements (adopting Vasks’s favoured slow-fast-slow scheme) and couched, for the most part, in a fearlessly diatonic idiom. Enviable concentration goes hand in hand with a strength, purity and serenity that held me from start to finish. Indeed, at its contemplative best, Presence has something of the timeless radiance, compassion and humanity of, say, Vaughan Williams or Finzi. Needless to report, it receives blisteringly dedicated and stunningly coordinated advocacy by the same artists responsible for the October 2012 premiere.
If I am rather less persuaded by Musique du soir for cello and organ (in which Gabetta is accompanied by her mother, Irène Timacheff-Gabetta), the release as a whole, boasting superlative production values throughout, can still be confidently recommended to Vasks’s many fans and newcomers alike.
Please enjoy everyone