PETERIS VASKS (b.1946): String Quartets No. 1 (revised version), No. 2 "Summer Tunes" and No. 3.
Catalogue Number: 12M074
Label: Challenge Classics
Description: The Third, from 1995, is the closest in style to the kind of thing that Vasks is best known for - textures of somber beauty, consonant harmony disturbed but never destroyed by chromatic undercurrents, and a pervading sense of melancholy which nevertheless tends to resolve into optimism based on the continuation of the spiritual and natural worlds; evocations of birds, folk music and church chorales. A decade earlier, Summer Tunes presents a similar æsthetic, though with more prominence given to ingenious passages of controlled aleatory techniques which vividly depict lonely, echoing nature-sounds, the twitterings of birds at dusk and calls across lakes and forests at night. the last movement is an impassioned elegy, alternately despairing and hopeful. The First, from 1977 (revised 20 years later) is very different; the first movement is chaotic and violent, protesting Latvia's troubled past in a modern idiom that one doesn't readily identify with the later Vasks. The second movement is motoric and vehement, though more tonal, somewhat reminiscent of Shostakovich. Only the last movement with its shifting strands of intertwining melody is more typical of the composer's later music. The string quartet idiom seems to have evoked an especially personal, pained response in the composer; there is less resolution, more questioning here than in much of his output. Navarra Quartet.