Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Vasks Violin Concerto "Distant Light"

Peteris Vasks

As an amateur violinist, of mediocre abilities, I have always loved violin concertos. I'm always on the look out for the next "gem" of an undiscovered or little known violin concerto. The Violin Concerto "Tala Gaisma"/"Distant Light" by Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks (b.1946) is one such "gem" which I discovered a number of years back. This post will introduce you to an excellent recording of this amazing work, available from Amazon for the bargain price of $0.89.


There are more than 6 recordings of the Vasks Violin Concerto (on Amazon), which is pretty good for a modern concerto. Vasks received the Vienna Herder Award (1996) and the Latvian Grand Music Award (1997) for this concerto. The number of recordings and accolades, should be sufficient proof of the violin concertos merits, but you will want to hear and judge for yourself.

Peteris Vasks Violin Concerto John Storgårds, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Juha Kangas

My favourite recording of the Vasks Violin Concerto, also the recording that introduced me to the work, is played by lessor known, but wonderful musicians, including violinist John Storgårds and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra conducted by Juha Kangas. Difficult to pronounce names don't really help here. In 2004, this recording was awarded the Cannes Classical Award in the categories "CD of the Year" and "Best Orchestral Work".

Frankly, this is not the easiest of pieces to discover, I therefore mark it as appealing to Expert listeners, but this piece will reward the open minded, patient listener. The Violin Concerto is a single movement work of over 30 minutes, with contrasting moments of sublime meditative dreaminess and violent dissonant bouts (due to ad libitum sections in the score). There are three cadenzas of increasing difficulty and the concerto cleverly incorporates some less common violin techniques: ascending and descending string glissando, double stop harmonics. The eerie waltz at 25:40 is thrilling.

Worth exploring are other great works by Vasks, including: Plainscapes, Pater Noster, Cello Concerto, String Quartets 1-3 and Symphony no.2.

Share this post and let me know of any violin concertos that you have recently discovered or other great works by Vasks that you like.

Links to the recording (track 2):

There is a bargain to be had here as the violin concerto is available from Amazon.com for a crazy low price of $0.89 for more that 30 minutes of music. Click on the Amazon CD cover below.
 Amazon

Vasks: Symphony No. 2 & Violin Concerto,  USA Store
Vasks: Symphony No. 2 & Violin Concerto,  UK Store
Vasks: Symphony No. 2 & Violin Concerto,  Germany Store
Vasks: Symphony No. 2 & Violin Concerto,  Netherlands Store

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