Pēteris Vasks was born in Latvia in 1946. He studied composition at the conservatory in neighboring Lithuania, as he was prevented from doing this in Latvia due to Soviet repressive policy toward Baptists. Vasks then found his own spiritual voice within or despite the restrictive Soviet aesthetic, as witnessed in his poignant String Quartet No 4.
Later works included elements of Latvian folk music, such as his gentle and pastoral Cor anglais Concerto (1989). His works are generally extremely clear and communicative, with a solid and muscular sense of harmony. Lyrical passages may be followed by agitated dissonances, or interrupted by sombre sections with a march-like feel. Listen to Cor anglais Concerto below.
Vasks' piece The Book contains a Dolcissimo movement which was performed by Cellist Sol Gabetta. The piece includes a haunting vocalise in counterpoint to the cello lines. This specific piece was actually written per request of Sol Gabetta as she longed for a solo cellist work involving a vocal part too. Check it out below.
Festival composer sketches by NANCY SUMMERS