PĒTERIS VASKS (b.1946): Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra No. 2 “Presence”, Musica serena, Musica dolorosa, Musica appassionata.
Catalogue Number: 04W054
Label: BR Klassik
Description: The concerto opens with an extended cadenza, which introduces the work hesitantly and then gains in density, momentum and romantic expressiveness. When the orchestra joins in, it is with full-blooded romantic intensity and harmonic lushness, more reminiscent of the great cello concertos of the past than the kind of 'spiritual minimalism' with which Vasks is often associated. The middle movement is a propulsively motoric scherzo, recalling Shostakovich, featuring a quite extraordinary amount of double stopping and chord playing for the soloist; a lengthy cadenza in similarly abrasive vein interrupts proceedings, but so do two brief lamenting neo-romantic episodes. For the adagio finale we return to the gloriously rich harmony and melody of the first movement, now gentler, with an air of resigned lamentation, striving toward hope. The movement rises to a climax of searing intensity, suddenly cut off, after which it subsides into an ethereal tranquility, with a final, unexpectedly moving surprise that sounds like a prayer. Musica appassionata is exactly what the title suggests, beginning in media res with a turbulent opening 'scene', which gives way to an episode of calm contemplation. The music takes on a threatening aspect, the language becomes increasingly chromatic, then after a confrontational climax the mood turns more positive and the work ends with a prayerful meditation. Musica dolorosa, although an early work (1983, when the composer was 37) is among Vasks' most distinctive and emotionally charged. Born of personal tragedy - the death of his sister - and informed by the social and political uncertainty of the time, as Latvia continued to suffer under the yoke of the incipiently unstable Soviet Union, the work is unrelievedly anguished throughout; the composer himself said "This is my most tragic opus, the only one in which there is no optimism ...". It begins with a sorrowful polyphonic chant, laden with sudden sobs - descending glissandi. An ominous ticking pulse soon occurs, and the music builds in density and dissonance, now intensely chromatic in its material and tormented in its delivery. The passionate outburst that follows continues to gain intensity even when this seems no longer possible, and disintegrates into wild, aleatoric, sonoristic screams that rival Penderecki (by whom Vasks was influenced before both composers turned in other directions). A heartbreaking lament, eloquently voiced by a solo cello, follows, and a return to the chromatic threnody which builds again in intensity and is abruptly cut off. Musica Serena is luminous and, as the title suggests, utterly serene. Composed for Vasks' friend and longtime champion, Juha Kangas' 70th birthday, it radiates beauty and the certainty of unshakable faith, that transcends pain and strife, as frequently forms the final section of Vasks' larger works but here heard as an optimistic affirmation in its own right. Uladzimir Sinkevich (cello), Anna-Maria Pailii (sprano), Munich Radio Orchestra; Ivan Repušić.