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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pēteris Vasks - Flute Music (Michael Faust)


Composer: Pēteris Vasks
  1. Concerto for Flute and Orchestra: I. Cantabile
  2. Concerto for Flute and Orchestra: II. Quasi una Burlesca
  3. Concerto for Flute and Orchestra: III. Cantabile
  4. Sonata for Flute and Alto Flute Solo: I. Nakts (Night): Misterioso
  5. Sonata for Flute and Alto Flute Solo: II. Lidojums (Flight): Agitato
  6. Sonata for Flute and Alto Flute Solo: III. Nakts (Night): Misterioso
  7. Aria e Danza for Flute and Piano: I. Aria
  8. Aria e Danza for Flute and Piano: I. Danza: Giocoso
  9. Landscape with Birds for Flute Solo

Michael Faust, flute
Sheila Arnold, piano
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä
Patrick Gallois, conductor

Date: 2013
Label: Naxos



Peteris Vasks has been one of my favorite composers ever since I heard his Plainscapes several years ago. All of the pieces here really grabbed me; Vasks has outdone himself in these works, producing music that is not only original and atmospheric but also technically interesting and emotionally satisfying. The best non-technical description I can give of Vasks’s music is that it is curved, not linear; thus its evolution always seems to flow, not “progress” in a straight-ahead manner. The greatest intensity here is manifested by the rising and falling cadences of the Concerto, a 33-minute masterpiece of evolving forms and rhythms. Perhaps one reason for its success is that Michael Faust, who plays on the entire album, was the flautist for whom it was written, and his flexible, emotional playing throughout this disc is simply breathtaking, particularly in those moments (in the Concerto and in the Sonata) where he hums chords to his own playing. Kudos in the Concerto must also go to the fine playing of the Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä and their conductor, Patrick Gallois.

Among the various techniques Vasks uses in the construction of his music are fluttering winds and strings, open fifths (used intelligently and tastefully), and in general an open “spaciness” of orchestration. All of his music is tonal, yet all of it is interesting. Both the Concerto and the Aria e danza are world premiere recordings.

In the Flute Sonata—a real tour de force for the soloist, who alternates on alto flute—Vasks modifies his style to produce a work that is surprisingly terse and even dramatic in quality. Again, Faust is up to the task, riveting one’s attention from first note to last. The Aria e danza , a much lighter, earlier work (1972), is given an especially charming performance by Faust and pianist Sheila Arnold. Despite its lighter quality, it is not frivolous or uninteresting.

Landscape with Birds (1980), which ends this disc, is considered to be “a free fantasia on a number of motifs.” As with so much of Vasks’s music, the reflections of nature are created sometimes symbolically and sometimes “realistically” using a number of varied techniques. Among them here is the force that flying birds impress on one’s mind, evoked via “high” sounds on the flute that evolve into swirling and dramatic swoops and thrusts (and more humming chords by the soloist).

This is an album as remarkable for the extraordinary quality of Faust’s playing as for the quality of the music. I strongly endorse this disc for its many spectacular and exhilarating moments, as well as for those moments of repose and quietude.

-- Lynn René Bayley, FANFARE

More reviews:


Pēteris Vasks (born 16 April 1946 in Aizpute, Latvia) is a Latvian composer. He trained as a violinist and a double-bass player and played in several Latvian orchestras before entering the State Conservatory in Vilnius in Lithuania to study composition with Valentin Utkin. He started to become known outside Latvia in the 1990s, when Gidon Kremer started championing his works and now is one of the most influential and praised European contemporary composers. Vasks's compositions incorporate archaic, folklore elements from Latvian music with the language of contemporary music.


Michael Faust is a German flautist. He studied the flute with Cäcilie Lamerichs, Karlheinz Zöller and Aurèle Nicolet. As a soloist, Faust has presented solo concerts throughout Europe, North and South America, Africa and Japan. As an orchestral player, he has been the principal flute with the WDR Sinfonieorchester in Cologne since 1988. Faust is professor at the Musikhochschule Düsseldorf and gives masterclasses in Europe, South America, Japan and the United States. Composers Mauricio Kagel and Pēteris Vasks has written concertos for him.


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