Plakidis: Music for String Orchestra
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Pēteris Plakidis: Music for String Orchestra

Catalogue Number: TOCC0004
EAN: 5060113440044
Release Date: 26 June 2007
Duration: 60:09

Music for Piano, Strings and Timpani
Songs for the Wind and Blood
Concerto for Two Oboes and Strings
Concerto-Ballad for Two Violins, Piano and Strings

Pēteris Plakidis, piano
Antra Bigača, mezzo soprano
Uldis Urbāns, oboe
Vilnis Pelnēns, oboe
Andris Pauls, violin
Dzintars Beitāns, violin
Riga Chamber Players, chamber orchestra
Normunds Šnē, conductor

The music of Pēteris Plakidis, born in 1947, is rooted in the melodic character of Latvian folk-music, which imbues all his works with a remarkable strength and beauty. Renaissance and Baroque polyphony and forms, such as fugue, chaconne, canon and variation, provide the strong internal organisation that binds together a remarkable and moving synthesis of disparate elements. Although Plakidis shares some points of contact with the ‘Holy Mystics’ among other Baltic composers, such as Arvo Pärt and Pēteris Vasks, his own music evokes the meditative power of nature and the distinct character of his Latvian roots. From these four works a unique voice emerges, a musical personality full of harmonic warmth, rhythmic excitement and dramatic lyricism.

Booklet texts (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
DOWNLOAD COMPLETE ALBUM 60:09
1 Music for Piano, Strings and Timpani (1969)

Pēteris Plakidis, composer, piano
Riga Chamber Players, chamber orchestra
Normunds Šnē, conductor

(first digital recording)
21:21 play
2-4 Songs for the Wind and Blood (1991)

Pēteris Plakidis, composer
Antra Bigača, mezzo soprano
Riga Chamber Players, chamber orchestra
Normunds Šnē, conductor

(first digital recording)
11:03
2 ‘No one enters this forest’ 4:26 play
3 ‘The dark waters of blood are flowing’ 3:21 play
4 ‘Take me, o wind’ 3:16 play
5 Concerto for Two Oboes and Strings (1982)

Pēteris Plakidis, composer
Uldis Urbāns, oboe
Vilnis Pelnēns, oboe
Riga Chamber Players, chamber orchestra
Normunds Šnē, conductor

(first digital recording)
11:04 play
6 Concerto-Ballad for Two Violins, Piano and Strings (1984)

Pēteris Plakidis, composer, piano
Andris Pauls, violin
Dzintars Beitāns, violin
Riga Chamber Players, chamber orchestra
Normunds Šnē, conductor

(first digital recording)
16:41 play

Artists

Pēteris Plakidis

Pēteris Plakidis, composer, piano
[credit: Leslie East]

Antra Bigača

Antra Bigača, mezzo soprano

Uldis Urbāns

Uldis Urbāns, oboe

Vilnis Pelnēns

Vilnis Pelnēns, oboe

Andris Pauls

Andris Pauls, violin

Dzintars Beitāns

Dzintars Beitāns, violin

Rīgas Kamermūziķi (Riga Chamber Players)

Riga Chamber Players, chamber orchestra

Normunds Šnē

Normunds Šnē, conductor
[credit: Jānis Deinats]

Reviews

This is a real discovery

Peteris Plakidis (b1947) was barely even a name to me before I encountered this beautifully recorded programme, set down in February 1999 in Riga’s Reformation Church. Music for Piano, Strings and Timpani (1969), in which the composer features as pianist, was Plakidis’s diploma work. A typically well crafted product of his early style, this single span, multi‑section work shows considerable aural imagination (albeit with a debt to Bartók) within a postmodern tonal idiom and plays not unlike a set of variations. Based on the folksong “Ej, saulite, driz pie Dieva” (“Go, sun, soon to God”), in which “Latvian peasants rail against oppressive German landowners”, there is a clear subtext protesting the Soviet occupation of Latvia.

Songs for the Wind and Blood (1990-91), setting three poems by Astrida Ivaska to a commission from the Latvia Song Festival Association in Canada (the premiere took place in Toronto), are non-political. Plakidis’s vivid voice-writing, delivered with assurance by mezzo Antra Bigaca, suggests he is a word-setter of real acuity, the string-orchestral sonorities reminding me of early Britten.

The two single-span concertos are in their own ways just as evocative in their abstract dramas as the song-settings. The relatively brief Concerto for Two Oboes (1982) plays for just 11 minutes but, while one might wish it were longer, does not feel curtailed. The Concerto-Ballad (1984) is more substantial in size (although plays for less than 17 minutes) and range of moods, a kind of modern concerto grosso for two violins and piano (the uncredited pianist is Plakidis himself). With excellent performances throughout, this is a real discovery.

Guy Rickards Gramophone 2007

The name Pēteris Plakidis may have come to your attention about 10 years ago, as it did to mine, when Gidon Kremer recorded two of his short pieces for solo violin entitled Grasshopper Dances. Indefatigable as ever, Martin Anderson decided to unearth more from Plakidis (born in 1947 in Latvia). Anderson’s CD label Toccata now brings us a program of mostly early works by the composer, recorded in February of 1999.

The earliest of these is the Music for Piano, Strings, and Timpani, written in 1969 as Plakidis completed his musical studies at the Latvian Conservatory. A work of strength and urgency, it betrays the heavy influence of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. A long, free solo passage for piano at the start evolves into a Bartókian allegro, and thence through several variations on a simple thematic motif. Despite the clear influence of the Hungarian master – not a bad model for a young composer at the time – there are many individual touches. One of these is a dual cadenza for timpani and piano, a “duel” cadenza in fact, and a harmonically ambivalent ending where the piano’s accented chords fight the key established by hymn-like string textures. (This polytonal clash may have had its origin in the closing bars of Berg’s Chamber Concerto.) There would also seem to be a political undercurrent to the piece: the thematic motif comes from a nationalistic Latvian song. The CD notes take it to be an anti-Soviet statement, although knowing this fact is by no means vital to an appreciation of the work.

With the two shorter concertante pieces from the 1980s, we are in more recognizably Baltic territory. Texture becomes the primary element in the double oboe concerto, where the two solo instruments unfold freely imitative musical lines over a wash of high strings. The sound suggests birds winging in close formation over some vast, cold landscape (an image which would be enhanced by a more ECM-like acoustic). The Concerto-Ballad combines this free imitation with more propulsive writing, led by an important piano part, taking us into different emotional territory again. A plaintive, folk-like theme in thirds is a notable strand of the busy middle section of this tautly structured piece.

Finally, from 1991, comes a brief cycle of three songs for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra. Settings of dream-like poems by Astrida Ivaska, the songs evoke a warm response from the composer. Melodic vocal lines and atmospheric string textures blend with the innate warmth of the mezzo voice to produce a heartfelt mini-cycle on the subject of the “dark waters of memory.” Antra Bigaca sings beautifully, with full tone and a sympathetic approach to the drama of the poetry.

All the performances here are committed and gutsy, aided by close, analytical sound. In addition, Plakidis himself is the pianist in the Music for Piano, Strings, and Timpani, giving the recording an added authority. Essential listening for anyone with a penchant for Bartók, this disc proves an exciting discovery.

Phillip Scott Fanfare

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