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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pēteris Vasks - Presence (Sol Gabetta)


Composer: Pēteris Vasks
  1. Cello Concerto No. 2 "Klātbūtne - Presence": I. Cadenza - Andante cantabile
  2. Cello Concerto No. 2 "Klātbūtne - Presence": II. Allegro moderato
  3. Cello Concerto No. 2 "Klātbūtne - Presence": III. Adagio
  4. Musique du Soir, for cello and organ
  5. Grāmata čellam - The book, for cello solo: I. Fortissimo
  6. Gramata čellam - The book, for cello solo: II. Pianissimo

Sol Gabetta, cello
Irène Timacheff-Gabetta, organ
Amsterdam Sinfonietta
Candida Thompson, conductor

Date: 2015
Label: Sony Classical


The Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks (who turns 70 this April) first encountered the Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta when he accepted an invitation to attend her annual chamber music festival in Switzerland (where she now resides). Fascinated by Vasks’s music ever since she heard his 1978 piece for solo cello Grāmata čellam at the age of 18, the persistent Gabetta eventually persuaded the initially reluctant composer to write her a concerto (his second for the instrument).

Luminously scored for cello with string orchestra and lasting around 35 minutes, it bears the title of Presence – and here let me quote from Vasks’s own descriptive notes – ‘by which I mean that I am here. I am not distant. With every breath I am here in this world, with all my ideals and dreams of a better world.’ He also explains how the work ‘is dominated by a mood that suggests the soul ascending into the cosmos. I was then inspired to conjure up the idea of the soul returning to earth and starting a new life. And then I had the idea of giving musical expression to this new beginning in life in the form of a lullaby.’ I won’t spoil the surprise, but it’s an ear-pricking device he also employs in the rapt second part of Grāmata čellam (the final item on the disc). The concerto is cast in three movements (adopting Vasks’s favoured slow-fast-slow scheme) and couched, for the most part, in a fearlessly diatonic idiom. Enviable concentration goes hand in hand with a strength, purity and serenity that held me from start to finish. Indeed, at its contemplative best, Presence has something of the timeless radiance, compassion and humanity of, say, Vaughan Williams or Finzi. Needless to report, it receives blisteringly dedicated and stunningly coordinated advocacy by the same artists responsible for the October 2012 premiere.

If I am rather less persuaded by Musique du soir for cello and organ (in which Gabetta is accompanied by her mother, Irène Timacheff-Gabetta), the release as a whole, boasting superlative production values throughout, can still be confidently recommended to Vasks’s many fans and newcomers alike.

-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE : **** / RECORDING: ****


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.


Sol Gabetta (born 18 April 1981) is an Argentine cellist. She won her first competition at the age of 10, soon followed by the Natalia Gutman Award. Her teachers include Christine Waleska, Leo Viola, Ivan Monighetti, Piero Farulli and Ljerko Spiller. Gabetta won the Crédit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2004. Other prizes have included the Gramophone Award for Young Artist of the Year in 2010, Echo Klassik Awards and Diapason d'Or. Gabetta has made commercial recordings for Sony and Deutsche Grammophon. Gabetta performs on a cello by G. B. Guadagnini dating from 1759.


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