Peteris Vasks (74) is Latvia’s most famous composer. His music is played all over the world, including in the Netherlands.
In 2019 violinist Daniel Rowland, Artistic Director of the Twentse Stiftfestival, made Vasks the central composer of the eight-day festival, culminating on Friday 23 August in an evening concert in the Basilica of St. Plechelmus in Oldenzaal; four pieces by Vasks were played. The live recordings of that evening have now been released on CD under the title ‘Distant Light’.
Distant Light is also the title of Vask’s more than half-hour violin concerto, the longest piece on the CD, which is convincingly performed by Rowland with his Stift Festival Orchestra.
The music is heavily emotionally charged and always tonal, even diatonic. Vasks thus draws a thick line through the legacy of modernism, which in Latvia, unlike in Western Europe, was never a determining factor. This leads to music that slips into the ears without resistance, but sometimes also comes out the other side, like in Dona nobis pacem, which becomes over-sentimental.
‘Distant Light’ and ‘Lonely Angel’ are beautiful in their expression of melancholy about the fragility of existence.
In any case, Vasks has not yet given up on the human species.
The above is a rough translation of the original Dutch.