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< The Radiohead-classical connection | Main | The sound of 1860...and 1859 >

Saying 'yes' to the beauty of the world

Posted at 1:25 PM on March 28, 2008 by Fred Child (1 Comments)

Got an email from a listener in Salisbury, Maryland last week, asking about a quote from a composer on our March 18th show.

It's a quote that's stuck with me, too. It's from Latvian composer Peteris Vasks.

Beauty and harmony are rare in life, but in music, they are possible. I go through pessimism finally to confirm at the end that I say 'Yes,' until my last breath, to the beauty of the world.

Vasks was born in Latvia in 1946. He was a preacher's son in the USSR, and his family suffered because of his father's work. Vasks' reaction to that misery was to create beauty. In this overview of work by Baltic composers, Vasks says:

More than ever before, I'm conscious of a twofold inspiration. The sense that I stand and have my being in this still corrupt but intensely beautiful land. And that my spirit and soul are always looking beyond it...

As far as I know (please let me know if I'm wrong!), there has not been a comprehensive biography of Peteris Vasks in English. Looks like this might be a nice interview with Vasks, if you read Latvian.

The best overviews of his life and work that I've seen in English have been in program notes that Orrin Howard wrote for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and notes from an ECM record release.

If you like the "mystical minimalism" in some of the music by Henryk Gorecki and Arvo Pärt, you should check out Peteris Vasks. Here are a few to get you started:

Choral work on the CD Pater Noster, on the Ondine label.

Dolorosa for strings on this ECM recording.

String Quartet No. 4, from the Kronos Quartet, on this Nonesuch CD.

One final thought, from the notes Vasks wrote for the SQ 4 CD:

To my mind, every honest composer searches for a way out of his time's crises. Towards affirmation, towards faith. He shows how humanity can overcome this passion for self-annihilation that flares up in a column of black smoke from time to time. And if I can find this way out, a reason for hope, the outline of a perspective, then I offer it as my model.

Comments ( 1 )

Is it possible to download the music from this site to my computer?

I enjoy listening to your program on the radio, but often I would enjoy listening to it again.


Posted by Miggie Wood | March 30, 2008 2:29 PM

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