Violinist is a passionate advocate of Latvian composer’s modern classics

Vasks Rowland

Daniel Rowland, Maja Bogdanović: Vasks

The Strad Issue: January 2021

Description: Violinist is a passionate advocate of Latvian composer’s modern classics

Musicians: Daniel Rowland (violin, director) Maja Bogdanović (cello) Consensus Vocalis, Stift Festival Orchestra/Thomas Carroll, Benjamin Goodson

Works: Vasks: Violin Concerto (Distant Light; Lonely Angel; Plainscapes; Dona nobis pacem

Catalogue number: CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72830

In terms of recordings alone – now stretching into double figures – Distant Light (1996–7) counts alongside the violin concertos by Adès and Ligeti as a modern classic of the repertoire. In this one-off live recording from a Dutch church – the culmination of a week-long festival dedicated to Pēteris Vasks – the detailed yet spacious engineering and precision of the latest version are second to none. The composer’s idiom of elevated introspection both demands and cultivates an atmosphere of still and intense concentration which is fully met by Daniel Rowland’s lean attack and palette of blue, unmixed tones in the trio of progressively more taxing cadenzas, while his leadership of the string-only accompaniment draws the players around him.

The textures but not the mood – nostalgia with a touch of tragedy – change with the couplings. The noodling melismas and choral mantras of Dona nobis pacem (1996) and Plainscapes (2002) will press all the right buttons for confirmed fans of Vasks’ brand of secular mysticism, and the ardent violin-led cantabile of Lonely Angel (1999/2006) is hauntingly done by Rowland, but they expand upon rather than evolve the concerto’s meditative aspects without the relief of its livelier, folk-tinged interludes.