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Classical - Released October 12, 2012 | ECM New Series

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Minimalist composers both Western and Eastern, and both Holy and Secular, have moderated the radical simplicity of their music, both drawing on functional harmony and creating dramatic structures of their own devising. This beautifully recorded album collects music by Arvo Pärt, most of it composed (or at least revised) since the turn of the century. Performed by a superb group of Baltic musicians, the album makes a fine choice for those wishing to explore new directions in Pärt's music. The title work, composed in 2009, is in response to a joint commission from the cities of Tallinn and Istanbul. Based on texts by a contemporary Orthodox saint, Silouan of Mount Athos in Greece (the texts are not included), it takes Adam's banishment from paradise as its theme. Like several other works on the album, it uses elements of Orthodox chant, mixing it with high string sounds and choral homophony. Some of the shorter works on the album are closer to Pärt's classic style, but none (not even Beatus Petronius, track 2, which includes a set of tubular bells in the orchestra) really makes use of Pärt's trademark tintinnabulation bell effect. He has not moved into dramatic music in the way that, say, Philip Glass has, but dialogue among discrete groups plays a greater role in this music than it did in his earlier works. The variety is all to the good, and the two small, absolutely limpid lullabies that close the program are quite memorable. The album was assembled from recordings made in several different places, by several different groups: the Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis, and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with Estonian and Latvian orchestras. But Tõnu Kaljuste serves as conductor throughout, and each sound environment reflects the music heard; there is no sense of an anthology. Strongly recommended for Pärt fans. © TiVo
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released May 1, 2020 | Ondine

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This album presents a sequel for the album of Tchaikovskys sacred choral works by the Latvian Radio Choir and conductor Sigvards Kava. These two albums together form the composer's complete sacred works for the choir. The All-Night Vigil, Op. 52 for mixed choir, also known as the "Vesper Service", was written between May 1881 and March 1882. It was first performed by the Chudovsky Chorus conducted by Pyotr Sakharov in Moscow at the concert hall of the All-Russian Industrial and Art Exhibition on 27 June 1882. Tchaikovsky described the work as "An essay in harmonisation of liturgical chants". For this work the composer carefully studied the tradition of musical practice in the Russian Orthodox Church, which could vary considerably from one region to another. This beautiful, yet rarely recorded work is accompanied by four other choral works all written during the same decade: Hymn in Honour of Saints Cyril and Methodius as part of commemorations of the 1000th anniversary of the death of Saint Methodius, A Legend, originally coming from the collection "Sixteen Songs for Children", Jurists Song, for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in St Petersburg, and The Angel Cried Out, a beautiful traditional Russian Orthodox Easter hymn and Tchaikovskys final choral work. © Ondine
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Classical - Released November 6, 2020 | Ondine

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Ondine is proud to release its 17th album together with the award-winning Latvian Radio Choir and conductor Sigvards Kļava dedicated to a cappella words by Anton Brucker. Anton Bruckner (1824–1896) is known as one of the greatest of 19th century symphonists. Yet, also choral music formed an integral part of the composer’s output. This album includes a selection of smaller choral works written between the years 1848 and 1892. Many of these works were long forgotten. Yet after a long stretch on the periphery of the choral world, Bruckner’s motets have now finally returned to a broader consciousness. © Ondine
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Classical - Released October 9, 2015 | Ondine

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The career of the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov goes back to the days of suppression of modernist styles by Soviet authorities. He has been underexposed in the West compared with other Eastern European composers working in accessible idioms. This may be because he is not readily classifiable or marketable among the minimalists or among the neo-Romantics, but instead has forged an individual language drawing on both, as well as on Slavic sources. This collection of a cappella choral pieces from the 1990s and 2000s is a good introduction to his rather inward late style. Silvestrov may write hypertonal music if it fits the text (such as the Ave Maria, which appears twice in this set of mostly sacred pieces), refer to Rachmaninov's sacred music, or employ static textures as needed. His palette has subtle shades such as the distinction between chant and song in the Two Sacred Chants and Two Sacred Songs, both from 2006; the songs, naturally enough, have a more purely melodic idiom. But his pieces tend to end luxuriously in big stacks. The closest comparison might be Henryk Górecki, but lovers of Pärt's music should also check this out. The Latvian Radio Choir under Sigvards Klava is an ideal ensemble for this music, with brilliant highs that resound in the unidentified but excellent space employed by Ondine for its recording. The booklet is also worthwhile, containing a biography of Silvestrov that will be news to many listeners outside the vicinity of the composer or performers. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 10, 2017 | Ondine

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Latvia's Peteris Vasks is the most Beethovenian of the Nordic holy minimalists, with extremely long lines woven into large structures and given a dark, somber cast. These trends have intensified over Vasks' long career, and they perhaps reach their apex in these works, all written in the 2010s when the composer was in his late sixties. There are just five works on the album; for the full effect sample one of the larger ones, perhaps the opening Da pacem, Domine, where the harmonic structure shifts just a few times over the course of the work. Even more than in the large, Western minimalist works of Reich and Glass, which are the nearest comparisons, Vasks demands a lot of choristers, who have to maintain pitch and consistent tone over very long stretches. Having lived with Vasks' music for a while now, the Latvian Radio Choir under Sigvards Klava deliver a virtuoso performance, and they get ideal backing from Ondine's engineers, working in Riga, Latvia's St. John's Church. The end result is powerful, calm, and truly monumental. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 12, 2012 | ECM New Series

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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released January 1, 2007 | Ondine

Peteris Vasks (1946), Latvia's most prominent composer, was the son of a Baptist minister, and while he always felt a strong affinity for sacred music, he didn't feel free to express it through vocal music since it would never have been allowed to be performed under the Communist regime. Since the early '90s, he has turned his attention more and more to religious texts, and this CD includes three of his most significant sacred choral works, including a setting of the Mass. Vasks' style of choral writing links him to the composers who have come to be described as "holy minimalists," a group that includes Pärt, Górecki, Kancheli, and Tavener, whose music, while stylistically diverse, tends to rely on tonal and modal harmonies, is frequently harmonically static or slow-moving and is often linked to plainchant and ancient liturgical traditions. Vasks' choral music is firmly rooted in Western polyphony and is for the most part traditional-sounding; there is little in it apart from certain unconventional harmonic progressions that would make it immediately identifiable as a product of the late twentieth century. Among the other holy minimalists, the sound of his music is most closely related to that of Górecki in its harmonic textures and the somber earnestness of its moods. The three works recorded here are polyphonically and harmonically sensual, in spite of their serious tone. An exception to the sober tone is the Mass' Sanctus, which, while not exactly lighthearted, is lively; the composer imagines it "sung by happy, little angels." The Latvian Radio Choir sings with warmth and passion and with excellent control in the composer's extended, sustained vocal lines. Sigvards Klava, conducting Sinfonietta Riga, leads them in deeply felt performances. The CD should be of interest both to fans of choral music and of new trends in minimalism tinged with Romanticism. © TiVo
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released January 3, 2012 | Ondine

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The choral music of Latvian composer Peteris Vasks offers an ideal approach to new music for people who think they don't like new music. His music is certainly not going to be mistaken for that of a traditional tonal composer or a neo-Romantic; it's full of swoops, clusters, and startling sonorities. While he includes a generous sampling of 20th and 21st century techniques in his compositional toolkit, that's not all he's got in there; he also uses tonal harmonies, recognizable forms, memorable melodies, and it wouldn't be stretching to characterize his music as essentially sweet and sensual without being cloying. Most importantly, he combines his disparate materials in ways that have an inescapably direct emotional impact, often with the simple communicativeness of Eastern European minimalist mystics, with whom he could reasonably be grouped. Vasks is a prolific choral composer and the eight secular pieces on this 2012 album represent a sampling of some of his most appealing works. Most are a cappella but one is accompanied by violin, cello, and tape, and one by percussion. Some are for mixed voices and some for women's voices. The album opens with its most challenging work, The Tomtit's Message, a dazzling virtuoso showcase for mixed voices that immediately establishes the astonishingly sophisticated musicianship and gorgeous choral sound of the Latvian Radio Choir, led by Sigvards Klava, which seems undaunted by Vasks' most extravagant demands for extended vocal techniques, alternating with sections of piercing tonal purity. Other highlights include the gentle Silent Songs, the rhapsodic Summer for women's voices, and the Plainscapes, an atmospheric wordless vocalize with string accompaniment. The sound of the Ondine CD is cleanly detailed but isn't lacking in warmth or resonance. Fans of composers like Mortensen and Whitacre are likely to find much to enjoy in Vasks' strikingly original choral works. © TiVo
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released September 10, 2015 | SKANI

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Classical - Released November 9, 2018 | Ondine

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Arvo Pärt is almost the spiritual father of his fellow-countryman Andrejs Selickis (born 1960) and the two musicians share a deep faith which moulded many of their works. Selickis's style, in his a capella choir works presented here at least, harks back in part to Gregorian material, specifically in its rigorous and yet atonal counterpoint and the ineffable joy of the monody that he uses at times. He also borrows from Russian, Greek, Baltic and Armenian Orthodox liturgies amongst others. The rich modal harmonies and the soloists' voices echo those of a Cantor in certain passages. Though we say a capella, we should note that Душа грустит о Небесах ("My Soul is Yearning for Heaven") (2017) and O Crux Cristi!(2016) call on some discreet timpani strokes and Litany for Mother Teresa (2012) also brings in two cornemuses and a touch of strings, weaving a delicate backdrop of long notes. All these works are religious, which is all the more understandable when we consider that the composer is a Psalmist for the Latvian Orthodox Church. © SM/Qobuz
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released August 18, 2017 | SKANI

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released November 22, 2019 | SKANI

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Classical - Released September 27, 2019 | SKANI

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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released June 9, 2017 | Ondine

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Classical - Released October 29, 2007 | GB Records

The Latvian Radio Choir's CD of contemplative choral music is largely devoted to the work of Gavin Bryars, including two of his larger pieces, Glorious Hill and Cadman Requiem. It also includes several of Bryars' shorter works, thirteenth century chant, and music by Latvian composers Peteris Vasks and Eriks Esenvalds. The Esenvalds piece is especially impressive; it's a genuinely haunting setting of a creepy ancient Albanian story, "Légende de la femme emmurée, written in 2005. The composer mingles the conventions and modes of Albanian folk song with a gorgeously lyrical harmonic and melodic language, and interweaves the choral fabric with poignant solos, using texts in Albanian and English. It won first prize in the International Rostrum of Composers Competition, Young Composers division, and deserves to be widely taken up by choirs with the technique to do it justice as it's a real stunner. The Vasks reveals the composer as an absolute master of contemporary choral writing; he's able to generate unearthly sonorities so strange that it's hard to believe they're produced by human voices, and they are always beautifully integrated into the musical whole, never merely odd effects. Bryars' settings draw heavily on chant traditions for their melodic content, but are contrapuntally and harmonically rich in a compelling synthesis of ancient and modern sounds. The pieces collected here are somewhat more conventional than the Esenvalds and Vasks, but show that Bryars is creating a distinctive and substantial contribution to contemporary choral literature. The performances by the Latvian Radio Choir are remarkable for their intonation in this harmonically dense music, the varieties of vocal color they have at their disposal, and the luxuriant warmth of their sound. This is an album of grave but radiant music that should be indispensable for anyone who loves contemporary choral works. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 14, 2018 | Naxos

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released August 10, 2018 | SKANI

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Daugavas is not only the Latvian name of the river—also known as Western Dvina and Düna—which empties into the Baltic Sea in Riga. This is also the name of a great pom written in 1916 by the poet Rainis, great advocate for a free Latvia, which drew the ire of the Russian Empire and, in passing, earned him some time in jail and a long exile in Switzerland. During the tensions that led to the independence of the Baltic States from the Soviet dictatorship, the composer Mārtiņš Brauns takes part of the text to compose his ample cycle Daugavas, whose last volume, very solemn, ended up becoming some kind of unofficial national anthem celebrating political and cultural freedom, far from Moscow’s yoke. Brauns’ writing, rather classical in essence with some folkloric flavors, doesn’t hesitate to sometimes venture into almost rock sonorities—you must know that the composer, even if he had a classical education, has also been the pianist and songwriter of a Latvian rock band! His incursions into movie soundtracks also give him a substantial ability to produce “visual” and tangible music, close to the listener, but without ever veering toward the easy route. Some rare but singular electric guitar sounds and the raucous voice of Brauns himself—external to the choral writing which remains resolutely polyphonic and often modal—act as a bridge between the eras and the concepts. © SM/Qobuz
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released September 10, 2015 | SKANI

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Classical - Released May 28, 2014 | Mikrofona ieraksti

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Classical - Released September 3, 2013 | EMG Classical