Peteris Vasks – Works for Piano Trio work for me

What I admire most about Peteris Vasks is his deep spirituality. It permeates all of his music, even his early avant-garde compositions. This release features three of his works for piano trio. All three are quintessentially Vasks.

They radiate an aura of serenity, even during the fastest and loudest passages. The music seems far removed from the concerns of tonality (or lack of it), motivic development, and other musical considerations. It simply is, expressing the intangible.

Three of Latvia’s best chamber musicians comprise the Trio Palladio. Their performances of their compatriot’s music plumb the depths of Vasks’ works. The trio plays not just beautifully, but lovingly. And that makes this an album I’ll revisit time and again.

The first selection is Lonely Angel (Vientulais engelis). I described this to a friend as a Latvian Barber’s “Adagio.” Like the “Adagio,” it was originally part of a string quartet. Vask arranged the slow movement for violin and string orchestra in 2006.

Like that version, this 2019 piano trio work is more than just a rearrangement. Vasks uses the instrumental combination to great advantage, shifting the balance of the various melodic strands. The piano, for example, gives prominence to a fluttering figure that to me suggested wings.

The major work on the release is the 1985 Episodi e canto perpetuo. Dedicated to Olivier Messiaen, it uses the structure of his “Quartet for the End of Time” without directly referencing it. As Vasks explains, “It is like the difficult road through evil, delusion, and suffering to a song of love.” And it’s worth the journey.

The 2011 Plainscapes (Lidzenuma ainavas) was originally composed for violin, cello, and choir. In this version, the piano does more than just substitute for the choir. As with Lonely Angel, it seemed almost a different work. And one just as evocative of the Latvian plains as night falls and the stars appear.

If you’re familiar with Vasks’ work, you should own this. And if you’re not, let this release serve as an introduction. It’s that good.

Peteris Vasks; Works for Piano Trio
Trio Palladio

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