Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Latvia II: Loving Lūcija

The music of Lūcija Garūta (1902-1977), pictured above, has a special place in Latvian music. I'll let Wikipedia introduce one of her major works:
A tape of the premiere of her 1943 cantata Dievs, tava zeme deg! (God, your land is burning!) on 15 March 1944 during World War II captured the sounds of battle outside of Riga Dom. The lyrics were written by Andrejs Eglītis for contest themed "Latvian prayer to God". The première featured massed choirs conducted by Teodors Reiters while the composer played the Riga Cathedral pipe organ. The cantata was banned under Soviet control of Latvia and was revived in 1990 at the 20th Latvian Song Festival with over ten thousand singers. 
This deeply-felt work for tenor, baritone, chorus and organ kept me rooted to the spot, entranced, throughout its 45 minute duration. There is much dramatic writing but also some seriously beautiful sections (such as the tenor solo beginning at 6:25). The charismatic nature of the composer's ideas cannot but compel the open-hearted listener I think and I do hope you'll give it a try. The music's affinities with French music are intriguing, giving it a quality above and beyond its general Eastern European late-Romantic feel. 

What else does Lūcija Garūta have to offer us? Well, there's her Piano Concerto in F sharp minor of 1952 - a barnstorming piece in the old high-Romantic style. (Could any music be further away from the avant-garde goings-on at Darmstadt at that time?) Audiences across the world would love this piece if they ever got a chance to hear it - especially those partial to the Rachmaninov concertos. (One for Hyperion?) As with the cantata, drama and beauty combine winningly throughout, with the refined and lyrical second subject of the first movement and the entirety of the slow movement of the piece being particular treats. The slow movement meditates on a sombrely beautiful melody that could have come from one of the old Russian masters, contrasting it with a more cheerful theme of considerable colour and charm. The entertaining finale dances, sings and sparkles in an almost Saint-Saëns-like fashion, keeping up the very high standard of invention on display throughout. It's amazing how many wonderful pieces there are lying in various homelands that remain undiscovered by the world's music lovers. The world is missing out on so much. This is a piece it shouldn't be missing out on.

And there's more (as I hope you'll be wanting much more of Lūcija''s music)...There's a similarly late-Romantic Piano Trio in B flat major that will delight lovers of Russian-style chamber music of the late 19th Century variety - and many others besides. There's plenty of enchantment in the second subject of its first movement (ah, so warm!) and, yes, there's a belter of a slow movement. The finale is cathcy, like one of those old folksong-based finales. In some ways it's a piece very much in the same mould as the Piano Concerto - and none the worse for it. It may have been a piece out of its time but who cares about that now? Performances at Wigmore Hall would do wonders for its popularity.

If you're still not done with this lady's music, then please also try her Prelude in B minorVariations in F sharp minor or Prelude in C sharp minor for piano.

Well, who's next?

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