My latest CD mini-review for the WRTI E-newsletter. You can read all my CD reviews here.

Pēteris Vasks, Message

Riga Philharmonic Orchestra, Krišs Rusmanis, Catalyst 64286

vasksSubjugated throughout most of their history, Latvians are now free, and they adore their country. The composer Pēteris Vasks is enchanted by the sharp splendor of the forests and streams, and in Cantabile for strings he wants “to tell, in eight minutes, how beautiful and harmonious the world is.” He is in love with his land and his people, and we might call him romantic. But not starry-eyed. A “sad optimist,” he calls himself. He has witnessed the struggle to independence, the unarmed thousands braving Soviet troops. His music is tectonic: granitic slabs churn against pearlescent layers and the inexorable power grinds into you. Message—for strings, pianos, percussion—is nothing less than the battle between good and evil. “Every honest composer searches for a way out of the crises of his time,” he says, “towards affirmation, towards faith…if I can find this way out…then I offer it.” It is music of courage, passion, sensuality, and ecstasy. Listening to Vasks, you feel that out of subjugation, people will triumph, nature will triumph, beauty will triumph.