Tālivaldis Ķeniņš: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8 End of the Journey

This is the third installment of Ondine’s Ķeniņš symphonic cycle. In terms of content, it might just be the best. Latvian composer Tālivaldis Ķeniņš wrote eight symphonies over the space of 17 years. With each symphony, Ķeniņš expanded his scope and refined his style.

This release features his last symphony, written in 1986. Subtitled “Sinfonia concertata,” it’s a work for organ and orchestra. Ķeniņš masterfully blends the solo instrument and the ensemble — no mean feat. The organ has a very distinctive sound. But Ķeniņš carefully matches timbres, making it part of the orchestra. 

Iveta Apkalna is the organist in this recording. She brings an extraordinary level of musicianship to this work. Ķeniņš considered this his most metaphysical expression, and Apkalna delivers.

Also included is Symphony No. 5. This 1976 work is a concise expression of Ķeniņš’s aesthetic. Ķeniņš studied with Messian. He wanted to reconcile his innate romanticism with the neoclassicism of his French training. In his fifth symphony, these two elements seem to strike a balance. The work has the clear-cut organization of neoclassicism. But the harmonies and fluid melodies are inspired by Romanticism.

The Latvian National Symphony Orchestra is directed by Andris Poga. The orchestra has recorded three other Ķeniņš symphonies for Ondine. They are quite familiar with the style of their countryman. And it shows in their authoritative and sensitive performances. 

If you’re not familiar with Ķeniņš’s work, I recommend starting here. Symphony No. 8 was the goal. Then pick up the Ondine recording of his first symphony. Because that’s where the journey started.

Tālivaldis Ķeniņš: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8
Iveta Apkalna, organ
Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Adris Poga, conductor
Ondine 1388-2

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