One can communicate about Latvia in verse, prose, memoirs, observations; but one can also draw a sound-picture of Latvia. Globally, sharing wordless information has the most immediate impact. The mission of the Liepāja Concertos is to capture music that has its roots in the Latvian cultural soil and to introduce it to the world.
For his Liepāja Concerto No. 3, Rihards Dubra has written for piano and orchestra music of elemental beauty: we hear water in the sonorities of harps and chime-bells, earth in the rhythmic formulae, and fire in his colourful harmonic sequences.
Vilnis Šmīdbergs has composed his Liepāja Concerto No. 8 for violin and orchestra. In his music, fragmentary elements come into play, a will-o’-the-wisp’s dance juxtaposed with moments of electrifying drama.
Ēriks Ešenvalds chose clarinet, orchestra and electronics for his Liepāja Concerto No. 4 ‘Visions of Arctic Night’. Before its first performance he told the audience, “Liepāja colours, paths under linden trees, sand, winds – all this is still soughing within me. My concerto is partly Kurzeme, partly Arctic…”. This tender and imaginative work features a Mozartesque second theme which is perhaps one of the most beautiful moments in all Latvian symphonic music.
Juris Karlsons chose to write a Liepāja Concerto No. 9 ‘Gliese 581’ not for a solo instrument, but for the symphony orchestra itself. A few years ago, global media was buzzing with the story of the planet Gliese 581, a red dwarf on which there may be conditions suitable for life. This story inspired Karlsons to write music “about the necessity of searching, erring, finding, and longing”.
Opposite the symphony orchestra, composer and avid runner Kārlis Lācis puts two instruments: flute and oboe. The marathon distance is 42.195 meters, and this number is included in the title of Lācis’ Liepāja Concerto No. 10 ‘42.195’. The episodes run like views outside the window of a fast train; the movement of the music is active, instrumentation at times primitive, the motifs catchy, the stylized episodes colourful.
The Liepāja Symphony Orchestra is the oldest continually performing symphony orchestra in the Baltic States, and the only professional orchestra in the country outside Latvia’s capital Riga. Its debut Odradek album, Kurland Sounds, was praised by BBC Music Magazine as “A bracing selection of contemporary Latvian music combining Eastern colour and Western sonorities in dazzling combinations with an operatic intensity that will leave you breathless”.
Atvars Lakstīgala, a prolific conductor both at home and overseas, has been the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra’s Chief Conductor and Music Director from 2010 to 2017. He has won many international competitions, received numerous nominations for the Latvian Grand Music Award, and in 2010 won this award for Debut of the Year.