Michael Faust / Sheila Arnold / Patrick Gallois / Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä

Peteris Vasks: Flute Concerto

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The music of contemporary Lithuanian composer Peteris Vasks has a reputation for depicting nature, a grand tradition in the northern countries, and for creating structure that examine the relationship between nature and human culture. One might also add that from the evidence of the music here, which dates from between 1972 and 2011, Vasks is one of the few composers, in the Baltics or anywhere else, to succeed in gradually moving in the direction of tonal music without a sharp shift in direction. That's a testament to the strength of his musical personality. The early Landscape for Birds with Flute Solo (1980) could almost have been a minimal lost instance of Messiaen's avian-oriented works. From there forward, the language becomes more tonal, but the representational textures are consistent. The lovely and evocative Sonata for flute and alto flute solo (1992) and the Concerto for flute and orchestra (2007, revised, but you never find out how, in 2011), both consist of calm night pieces framing a busier middle section. In the earlier work, the middle movement is called "Lidojums," or Flight, but by the time of the flute concerto the busier element has become human: it is "quasi una burlesca." Everything in Vasks' music here, regardless of tonality, is accessible to the general listener, but none of it could really be called neo-Romantic. Despite pedestrian sound, this is a recommended introduction to a fascinating composer who has so far been little heard outside the Baltic and Nordic countries.

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