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JAZEPS VITOLS: WORKS FOR SOLO PIANO
Reinis Zarins

 

 

 
1. Vitols, Jazeps [01:29]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - i - Skaisti dziedi lakstigala

2. Vitols, Jazeps [01:13]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - ii - Es uzkapu kalna

3. Vitols, Jazeps [00:43]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - iii - Avu avu baltas kajas

4. Vitols, Jazeps [01:42]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - iv - Aija zuzu laca berni

5. Vitols, Jazeps [00:53]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - v - Tricej tricej visa Riga

6. Vitols, Jazeps [02:01]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - vi - Put vejini

7. Vitols, Jazeps [01:12]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - vii - Ciruliti mazputnin

8. Vitols, Jazeps [00:47]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - viii - Janits naca pa gadskartu ligo

9. Vitols, Jazeps [02:13]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - ix - Pati mate savu delu

10. Vitols, Jazeps [00:59]
Ten Latvian Folksongs - Op.29 - x - Redz kur jaja div bajari

11. Vitols, Jazeps [17:55]
Variations on a Latvian folksong op.6

12. Vitols, Jazeps [01:00]
Selection from Eight Minatures for Piano Op.68 - Jolly Serenade

13. Vitols, Jazeps [01:17]
Selection from Eight Minatures for Piano Op.68 - Waltz

14. Vitols, Jazeps [00:46]
Selection from Eight Minatures for Piano Op.68 - Dance of the sparrows

15. Vitols, Jazeps [02:13]
Selection from Eight Minatures for Piano Op.68 - Legend

16. Vitols, Jazeps [01:23]
Selection from Eight Minatures for Piano Op.68 - Oriental Song

17. Vitols, Jazeps [01;58]
Non-melancholy polka op.43 no.3

18. Vitols, Jazeps [05:39]
Waltz-capriccio op.24

19. Vitols, Jazeps [02:54]
Prelude in B major op.10 no.1

20. Vitols, Jazeps [04:52]
Sonatine op.63 - i - Allegro moderato

21. Vitols, Jazeps [04:52]
Sonatine op.63 - ii - Andantino semplice

22. Vitols, Jazeps [04:08]
Sonatine op.63 - iii - Allegro giocoso

23. Vitols, Jazeps [04:17]
By the Sea op.43 no.1

24. Vitols, Jazeps [04:53]
Song of the waves op.41 no.2

25. Vitols, Jazeps [02:02]
Lullaby op.43 no.2

Artist(s):
Reinis Zarins, piano


Rising star Latvian pianist Reinis Zarins performs solo piano music by Jāzeps Vītols (1863‐1948) in the 150th anniversary year of his death.

Jāzeps Vītols is regarded as the most important personality in Latvian musical culture of the first half of the 20th century. He taught in St Petersburg for 30 years, numbering Prokofiev among his many pupils. He was also Rector of the Latvian Conservatoire for 25 years, which now bears his name.

Reinis has chosen repertoire which he describes as demonstrating �beauty, elegance and humour alongside spirituality and nationalism�

Vītols composed more than 70 pieces for piano and even more songs, choral arrangements and folksong arrangements.

His music makes use of lively folkloric elements � for example in the Ten Latvian Folksongs included here.

His Sonatine is a real discovery � neoclassical elements with rich romantic harmonies combine to produce a dense and original sound world.

Reinis Zarins was born in Riga in 1985 and studied in Latvia, the US and the UK. He was awarded a �Great Music Award� in Latvia in 2012 and has won top prizes in many international competitions.


 

 


In his homeland, Jāzeps Vītols (1863�1948) is regarded as the most influential personality in Latvian musical culture in the first half of the 20th century. His name, often written as �Joseph Wihtol�, can be found in musical dictionaries as a composer, professor of composition and musical practitioner of wide scope, as well as on the title pages of his compositions published by M.P. Belaieff in Leipzig. He also maintains a firm place in the musical history of St Petersburg as, in the period before the establishment of the Latvian Republic in 1918, he taught for over 30 years in the conservatoire of this great Russian metropolis from which he had graduated in 1886 with the Gold Medal. Among his students there were composers of many different nationalities and included Sergey Prokofiev (1891�1953). After all the revolutions, wars and migrations of the 20th century, which affected so many peoples and nations, musicians who had studied composition with Vītols could be found all over the world.

Vītols was Rector of the Latvian Conservatoire for almost 25 years from 1919, and headed the composition class that trained several generations of Latvian composers. His wide-ranging educational work was internationally acknowledged in the inter-war period: Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, finland and Sweden awarded him their highest decorations as well as the status of honorary fellow of their respective music academies.

Jāzeps Vītols� musical style was forged in the so-called St Petersburg school of composition, which professionalised and refined the vigorous Russian musical heritage of the five. the eminent Russian musicologist Boris Asafyev (1884�1949), highly critical of this process of academicism, nevertheless marks out Vītols above the other downrated composers: �Lively folkloric thematic material, a certain independence of taste and relative freedom from formalism are to be noted in Vītols� music�. It should be said that Vītols was saved from self-satisfied academicism not just by folklore material but also by his participation in the vigorous musical life of Latvia, full of enthusiastic growth, and contact with its simple and concrete needs.

the author of two symphonies, symphonic suites and poems, overtures and much vocal and instrumental chamber music, Vītols also wrote piano music over a 40-year

period. numbering some 70 pieces, his piano works are exceeded in number only by solo songs, choral songs and folksong arrangements. His first piano work � Sonata for piano, op. 1 (1885) � already established his reputation in St Petersburg musical circles. His composition professor nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844�1908) recommended this piece to his colleagues, in particular to the then rising star of Russian music, Alexander Glazunov (1865�1936), who became a close friend of Vītols for many years.

this early beginning to composing for the piano intensified in the succeeding two decades, and was expressed primarily in the form of typical instrumental miniatures � preludes, etudes, etc. Original accents were introduced by Vītols� equally early interest in Latvian folk music materials, and the flooding of its motifs and melodies into various creative forms � folksong arrangements for choir, for solo voice and piano, in instrumental pieces and symphonic works. One of the simplest, but also most picturesque, is the interpretation of folksong melodies in the 1900 composition Ten Latvian folksongs: Miniature paraphrases for piano, op.29.

Vītols chose songs that were well known in society at the time, so he did not include their titles in the score, but the textual content in places is lightly suggested by the general character of the musical arrangement. this can clearly be heard both in the first paraphrase, about a nightingale on the tower of Rīga, and the fourth, in which the rocking rhythmic motion accompanies the most popular Latvian lullaby, and in others. the beginning of the sixth paraphrase, on probably the best known Latvian folksong worldwide, Pūt, vējiņi, almost exactly recreates the song�s choral arrangement, which was the originator of its popularity. Paradoxically, this gentle song about a boatman sailing to fetch his bride gained the status of a protest song in the years of Soviet occupation, partly because alongside the poeticism of still waters, the text expresses the young man�s resolve to choose his own bride independently of his parents� wishes.

the feeling of moderation, clarity and precision in the use of musical resources creates a particular sense of musical neatness in these paraphrases, earned from the St Petersburg school of composition that was ruled by perfectionism in musical language. One must also note Vītols� sensitive approach to folksong � which symbolised for him a regained sense of national identity. Having grown up in a Germanised family (Latvian, but speaking German), it was only in St Petersburg, in the company of other Latvian students, that he comprehended his ethnic roots and became familiar with Latvian folksongs which (in his own words) he �sang with them and wept with them.� At the suggestion of his friend and colleague, the Russian composer Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914), Vītols reworked seven of the paraphrases for symphony orchestra as an independent work � opus 29A (1904).

Variations on a Latvian folksong, op.6 (1891). the variations are based on the song Ej, saulīte, drīz pie Dieva (Go, sun, and set soon), which expresses the overworked and exploited peasants� protest against the manorial barons, who gave them no rest even after sunset or on Saturday evening. this cycle of nine variations, with its monumental character, stylistic strength and variety of pianistic textures, firmly established Vītols� reputation as a composer of piano music and was awarded the Glinka prize.

Eight miniatures for piano, op.68 (1927/1928) bring us deep into the second period of Vītols� music for piano, where the influence of Chopin or early Skryabin has been left far behind, as has the tension of establishing his own style; the composer can, as it were, be playful with his own mastery. Reinis Zariņ� has written in his study notes for this disc�s selection: �this work has a lot in common with tchaikovsky�s Album for Children, which even a mature musician can enjoy playing.�

Non-melancholy polka, op.43, no.3 (1913) expresses the same playful aesthetic, with its delight in light colours seemingly opposing all those composers who have given their polkas the pensive epithet �melancholy�.

Waltz-capriccio, op.24 (1897) is a relatively early composition and has faint echoes of Chopin. In this wide dance landscape, however, Vītols has managed to encompass a whole kaleidoscope of original and changing moods. �Elegance, happiness, joy in playing and toying with countless roguish glances, jokes, sensuous turns� Zariņ� writes in his notes.

Even earlier is the Prelude in B major, op.10, no.1 (1893), representing the typical piano miniature of the time. But Vītols shows himself already to be an intelligent, technically agile and sufficiently original composer. �Its irregular accompaniment without the strong beats frees it from the ordinary� writes Reinis Zarins.

Sonatine, op.63 (1926) is one of this disc�s musical gems. It is interesting to hear how Vītols adapts neoclassical elements without departing from the rich colours of romantic harmonies, achieving a dense and original sound texture in both the first and the second movements. the finale is not the crowning part of the work, as is usual but, after the two psychologically powerful movements, lends an exultant mood to the conclusion.

By the sea, op.43, no.1 (1913) the first edition has the following epigraph: �So, behold the sea!.../ It glows turquoise-green,/ It gleams in pearly foam�. Vītols� memoirs connect this work with his memories of a night by the Black Sea, watching lightning playing in the far distance in total silence, while Song of the waves, op.41, no.2 (1909) was created on the shores of the Baltic Sea. this is a work that marks the transition from Vītols� first to his second period of piano music, and this second period is characterised by its attention to more specific and refined subjects and more concrete depictions, very close to programmaticism. With almost unchanging rhythm, the image of the movement of the waves, beginning in impressionistic gentleness, then gradual and ever broader swell, grows into grandiose billows, with piano textures reminiscent of Liszt. this is one of the most popular of all Vītols� works.

the list of pieces on this disc is completed by the Lullaby, op.43, no.2, composed in 1913. It is a love song in the form of a lullaby: �Sleep, my darling bride,/ safe in my arms./ When one grows tired,/ you can sleep on the other one.� Vītols has characteristically elaborated this melody as a paraphrase, woven with clear and sensitive harmonies.

this disc is published in Vītols� 150th anniversary year, which is being extensively commemorated in his homeland, Latvia. the state-supported conservatoire that he founded (now the Music Academy) has borne his name in its title since 1958.

Arnolds Klotiņ�, dr.art. Translation: Lilija Zobens


"It is not difficult to recommend this record"

American Record Guide

“There is a feeling of disarming innocence about these pieces as well as gentle humour and a delicate beauty. I was captivated throughout this well filled disc.”
MusicWeb International

   
   

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