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Harry van der Wal
Harry’s classical music corner, February 2018

Slowly but surely I listen my way through Vasks music. Not often his music disappoints me, although it happens. This disc however is filled with choir music that lifts my spirits, and makes it possible to dive deep into the magical world of Vasks. The choir sings fantastic, and the instrumental soloists merge into the vocalise of the choir. …The poems are beautiful and fitting to the music, a perfect merger.

There is a delicious blend of inward reflection, thus the poignancy of the music should penetrate the hardest of hearts. Ravishing and intimate, an appealing directness and sincerity. Gorgeous.

Superb sound. © 2018 Harry’s classical music corner Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, November 2012

When you, as a reviewer, have been waiting for the release of a certain piece of music, you know how special it is; and if, then, the recording meets your expectations, it generally shoots to the top of your Desert Island discs. Such was the case for me with Pēteris Vasks’s Plainscapes…This is absolutely magnificent music, deceptively plain and simple in construction but deeply profound in feeling and meaning. Moreover, I was delighted to discover that the other choral works on this CD were equal in quality, and the performances of the Latvian Radio Chorus are mesmerizing. I would go so far as to say that this disc is a must for any lover of fine music. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, September 2012

First impressions are promising, this mixed chorus singing with a cool, far-reaching purity…

Three of the four miniatures that make up the Silent Songs are by Knuts Skujenieks…The poems are gnomic, and the slow, rarefied vocal writing is both stoic and deeply affecting. Choral discipline and blend—so vital in music of sustained loveliness—are superb. Even in this frigid landscape beauty still blossoms; ‘sleep, sleep’ is soft and plangent, ‘three forests’ icily brilliant. What a range of emotion lurks behind these notes, and how well this choir articulates them.

…Our Mother’s Names…has its aptly soaring moments. Stylistically the piece veers between gathering strength and a sighing contentment, the spaces in between filled with bird calls. It’s most unusual, and mesmeric too. Vasks continues the feminine theme with Sad Mother, by the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral…Written for women’s voices it’s a heart-piercing lullaby blessed with a wonderful line and framed with great feeling.

This is a captivating CD…As for this chorus and their chief conductor they do the composer proud; the Ondine engineers do well too. This quality package is enhanced by that interview with the composer, which offers many valuable insights and interesting asides. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2012

This is the premiere recording of Plainscapes, and in my opinion it is long overdue.

For those who have never heard it, Plainscapes is music to calm a tortured and weary soul, whether returning from a battle in war or the daily grind of a soul-killing job. When the Seattle Players performed it, they presented the scenario of someone sitting on a bus going home, but instead of having the tortures of the day go through her mind, you heard this slow, hypnotic, soft choral piece, accompanied by violin and cello.

Although not all the other pieces in this collection are as calming and spiritual in feeling as Plainscapes, all are beautifully crafted and endlessly fascinating.

This is music of an almost unearthly beauty, largely tonal and immensely likeable. The highest compliment I can pay the Latvian Radio Chorus is that it has an extraordinary blend as well as an obvious love and enthusiasm for this music. Its commitment shines through in every note. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

David Vernier, May 2012

the works exhibit some obvious stylistic differences; yet there’s an underlying consistency to the treatment of and respect for the texts. Whether the music ventures more into flights of dissonance, extremes of dynamics and texture, and unconventional vocal “effects” (The Tomtit’s Message; Our Mother’s Names; Birth) or stays pretty close to more traditional harmonic and textural structures, owing not a little to jazz and perhaps to Poulenc and Messiaen (Silent Songs; Summer), there’s a strong sense of linguistic resonance—no matter that we don’t speak the language at hand. And in many of these pieces Vasks has managed to capture a combined sense of melancholy—a knowing of what has been suffered and lost—with an ever-present optimism that infuses the Latvian spirit, that has kept the people and the culture alive through very hard times.

Vasks is nothing if not honest and unwavering in his view of music and his place in its grander scheme. And he’s fortunate to have the world-class Latvian Radio Choir as an advocate for his work. Wow. This choir could sing anything…you owe it to yourself to hear this. © 2012 Read complete review

Malcolm Riley
Gramophone, May 2012

…the compellingly brilliant Latvian Radio Choir concentrate on [Vasks’s] secular a cappella repertory.

The earliest piece, Summer…soars ecstatically. The miniature Small, Warm Holiday is equally sublime and accomplished.

Intensity and integrity are the hallmarks of Vasks’s style. He writes in a harmonically rich, reassuringly diatonic idiom, clothed in beautifully balanced and largely homophonic textures. Extended vocal techniques are even more to the fore in The Tomtit’s Message

…I do recommend this [Plainscapes] magical piece…performed with consummate perfection by this outstanding body of singers. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, May 2012

This is the second disc of choral music by Peteris Vasks. The Tomtit’s Message…is a 9-minute piece in three parts drifting metaphorically through sunrise, daytime, and nightfall. The music moves through Ligeti-esque choral color, impressive virtuosity, and rich harmony, well performed by this fine choir. Silent Songs…is four exquisite homophonic pieces mostly on nature and mysticism. The performance is utterly elevated. Our Mothers’ Names…is a 12-minute piece on the naming of Latvian women after birds. The expressive palette is wider here, with virtuosic warbling and color surprises to go along with the gentle thoughtful harmonies. The Sad Mother…is a beautiful portrait of the title character mooning over her child. Summer…is a brief melancholy depiction of the end of summer melting into fall.

This is great choral singing… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

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