Masterly musicianship aplenty in a Vasks premiere

The Strad Recommends: Sebastian Bohren: In Evening Light


The Strad Issue: July 2024

Description: Masterly musicianship aplenty in a Vasks premiere

Musicians: Sebastian Bohren (violin) Munich Chamber Orchestra/Sergej Bolkhovets

Works: Schubert: Rondeau brillant in B minor D895 (arr. Suits). Vasks: Violin Concerto no.2 ‘In Evening Light’; Lonely Angel

Catalogue number: AVIE AV2662

Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks experienced a musical epiphany in the 1970s. Inspired by nature and a need for emotional honesty he turned to a new style of simplicity that has led him to be grouped among the ‘holy Minimalists’ alongside Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and Henryk Górecki. And, in common with the rest of the group, he has no shortage of champions.

Vasks’s First Violin Concerto ‘Distant Light’ was premiered by Gidon Kremer in 1997 and the composer returned to the subject of light for his Second Violin Concerto, its name a reference to our twilight years; like the first, this is also scored for strings alone.

In this, its premiere recording, Swiss violinist Sebastian Bohren proves to be an ideal champion. The long soaring lines are lovingly sustained and his tone, although lucid, allows for melancholy and uncertainty too. Yet there’s no lack of power, not least in the three cadenzas, which are replete with double- and triple-stops. The Munich Chamber Orchestra offers warm and sensitive support, while also being alive to the dramatic tension of the second movement. Lonely Angel is adapted from the fifth movement of Vasks’s String Quartet no.4 (1999) and here Bohren shines in the extreme high-lying writing. Schubert’s Rondeau brillant is an unlikely pairing but its songlike and dancelike features are neatly contrasted in this arrangement for violin and strings.