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Bob Draper <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>There's another CD of Vask's music which I have yet to listen to.  This
>features his string symphony and cello concerto.It has the same orchestra
>but a different conductor (Jonas Aleksa).

Then you are on for some more delight.  The symphony "Balsis" (Voices)
might not be totally satisfactory, it does have many a moment of
breathtaking beauty, while the cello concerto may well be Vasks's
masterpiece to date.  However, you may care for two versions of Balsis.
The best version I know is on a Finlandia CD with the title "Stimmen",
coupled with Onute Narbutaite's Opus lugubre and Balakauskas's magnificent
Ostrobothnian symphony (his 3rd).  The Ostrobothnian chamber orchestra is
very impressive.

Vasks definitely is Latvia's best-known composer nowadays.  There are some
other talented composers in Latvia, though, including the grand old man
Adolfs Skulte (b. 1909), a hedonistic symphonist whose 5th symphony is
radiantly sensuous; Romualds Kalsons (b. 1936), whose sparkling, highly
virtuosic violin concerto is more convincing that the effective but a bit
massive 3rd symphony; Peteris Plakidis (b. 1947), considered one of the
most talented of all.  Imants Kalnins (b. 1941) has long been popular for
his almost provocatively simple style, influenced by rock, whereas Pauls
Dambis (b. 1936) is best known for his choral-orchestral works.  Janis
Ivanovs (1906-1983) certainly was the most influential composer during the
Soviet occupation, and despite my reservations (several of his symphonies
could have been of much higher quality, IMHO), there is no doubt about his
originality and power.

Now there are also Latvians in exile.  I have often mentioned Talivaldis
Kenins (b. 1919) as one of the greatest symphonists of our time, still
IMHO.  Alberts Jerums (1919-1978) was another "modernist" according to
Latvian standards.  I believe that he spent most of his life in England,
and I remember reading an article full of praise in some British magazine,
which I've never managed to find again.  His 2nd sonata for violin and
piano is superb, dark and energetic, with some dramatic lyricism.  Imant
Raminsh is well-known to lovers of choral music.  Gundaris Pone (1936-1994,
IIRC) was a modernist, even compared with Kenins and Jerums, mostly active
in the NY area, and enjoyed fully-fledged virtuosity, from what I know.

BTW, if any lister has information about music by Lithuanian composers in
exile such as Gaidelis and Jakubenas, I'd be much interested.  But I have
to add that the outstanding Lithuanian MIC, and the music scene in Vilnius,
have shown that they were remarkably open to exiled composers, which is
rare enough to deserve mention.

Best wishes,

Thanh-Tam Le
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