Talivaldis Kenins Symphonic Cycle Finishes Strong

This release concludes Ondine’s traversal of Talivaldi Kenins symphonies. It features his second, third, and seventh symphonies.

Latvian organist and composer Kenins studied with Oliver Messiaen in the 1940s. When the Soviets overran Latvia, Kenins knew he couldn’t return. He emigrated to Canada, where he remained the rest of his life. 

Toronto has a vibrant Latvian community, and soon Kenins felt at home. The community gave him the cultural base he needed for inspiration. 

And the wider cultural landscape soon bore the imprint of this talent. Kenins is credited with introducing many European concepts to Canadian composers. In the process it steered them away from British styles.

Kenin’s own style was influenced by his time with Messiaen, as well as the heritage of Latvian music. But he also drew from Canadian sources. His Symphony No. 2 “Sinfonia concertante” has a neo-classical form. And it uses a lullaby of the Mi’kmaq First Nations people. It’s an interesting blend that works surprisingly well.

The Symphony No. 7 also has neo-classical leanings. Kenins wrote the work in the form of a passacaglia. In essence, a passacaglia is a set of continual variations over a repeating bassline. Kenin obscures that bassline, but its outline is often hinted at throughout the work.     

Kenins wrote his third symphony in 1970. It was a commission from the Canadian Latvian Song Festival. The Festival is one of the events that reinforces Latvian cultural identity. Kenins delivers a masterwork of counterpoint and polyphony. And he does so with an underpinning of Latvian musical culture. There’s not another work like it. 

Andris Poga and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra understand Kenin’s music.  — both what it is and the culture it springs from. This has been an exceptional cycle of recordings. If you’re familiar with the previous volumes, then I don’t need to say any more. If Kenins is unknown to you, give this release a listen. There are revelations to be found.  

Tālivaldis Ķeniņš: Symphonies Nos. 2, 3, & 7
Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Andris Poga, conductor

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