Peteris Vasks – Music for Strings deeply spiritual

In recommending music, I often say that if you enjoy Arvo Part, you should listen to Pēteris Vasks. Both composers come from the Baltic States, and both infuse their music with deep spirituality. Vasks’ music, like that of Part’s, ignores the “isms” of the 20th Century.

What matters is the emotion the composer’s articulating. And though Part and Vasks may have similar styles, you won’t mistake one for the other. Vasks uses tonality when it suits, but never in a traditional fashion.

This release presents four works for string orchestra. Three of them express a single mood. The Musica Serena spins out step-wise melodies that seem to float over a layer of ever-shifting chords.

Vasks composed the Musica Dolorosa while dealing with the death of his sister. Its somber tones give voice to that grief. The strings gradually rise as the work progresses, ending with a feeling of tentative hopefulness.

Musica Appassionata is passionate indeed! Long passages that pile dissonant intervals one atop another ramp up the tension. Then the clouds break and the orchestra dances lightly through the next section.

The Cello Concerto No. 2 is an elegiac work that uses accompanying strings to amplify and reinforce the gestures of the soloist. Cellist Uladzimir Sinkevich delivers the emotional intensity of the work, making this a powerful close to the program.

The Munchner Rundfunkorchestrer has a clear, lean ensemble sound. Ivan Repušić effectively directs the orchestra, getting to the heart of Vasks’ compositions. The very large heart of Vasks’ compositions.

I recommend this release not only to fans of Arvo Part but to anyone who wants to be truly moved by music.

Peteris Vasks: Musica Serena; Musica Dolorosa; Musica Appassionata; Klatbutne
Uladzimir Sinkevich, cello; Anna-Maria Palii, soprano
Munchner Rundfunkorchestrer;  Ivan Repušić, conductor
BR Klassik 900336

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