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The names of Latvian performers Mariss Jansons, Gidon Kremer, Andris Nelsons and Elina Garanèa are familiar to the music world, but the names of Latvian composers remain largely unknown. A new label, the brainchild of clarinetist Egils Šefers, aims to change that, with a mission to bring the very best of Latvian classical music to audiences around the world.

As the Latvian nation anticipates the centenary of its independence in 2018, SKANI - which means ‘resound’ - will present more new releases, each celebrating different aspects of the nation’s musical wealth: the choral music of Vitols, Darzinš, Melngailis, Zalitis, piano performances by Georgijs, Andrejs & Sergejs Osokins, piano music by Lucija Garuta performed by London-based Reinis Zarinš, the symphonies of Janis Ivanovs and chamber symphonies by Tumševica, Leimane and Dzenitis.

“It is our wish to inform people all over the world about the rich musical heritage of our small but tenacious nation on the shores of the Baltic Sea.”
Egils Šefers

Nature and The Soul presents the music of four significant Latvian choral composers, performed by the internationally acclaimed Latvian Radio Choir. Their Director Kaspars Putninš describes the album as a love letter to Latvia, a return to a collective musical heritage, a kind of childhood home of imagery, sound and colour.

The album takes the listener back to the first decade of the 20th century when, like many other smaller European nations, Latvian music was in its prime. It presents a small, but characteristic segment of the path taken by Latvian choral music in its development.

Almost half of the music is by Jazeps Vitols (1863-1948), perhaps Latvia’s best-known composer, who taught in St Petersburg, was a contemporary of Glazunov, and founded the Latvian Conservatory of Music. The leading composer of choral ballads, he was fascinated by myth and legend, inspired by modernist poetry and his demanding choral masterpiece David before Saul is included here.

Emils Darzinš (1875-1910) did not have a straightforward career as a composer, suffering criticism from his peers and a troubled personal life. He only composed one choral ballad The Broken Pines, to words by the poet Rainis, which expresses in its simplicity, a courageous people’s resistance. Folklorist Jekabs Graubinš (1886-1961), the author of many colourful choral interpretations of Latvian folk songs, is represented on this album by a subdued, lyrical tone poem Night Has Entered the Forest. Emilis Melngailis (1874-1954), the most notable composer of Latvian folkloric music and a leading figure in traditional music research in his time, is in turn represented by the album’s title song Nature and the Soul.

Nature and The Soul presents the music of  four significant Latvian choral composers, performed by the internationally acclaimed Latvian Radio Choir.UK release date 18 August, 2017.

Prom 38: Rachmaninov
All-Night Vigil (Vespers)

21:45 Sun 13 Aug 2017
Royal Albert Hall

Latvian Radio Choir
Sigvards Kļava director

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Nature and the Soul is the sixth release in Skani’s Centennial series. The first five albums are: Northwind with the Carion Quintet, Fruit of Silence with the Latvian radio choir, Sound of Freedom with Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, Latvian Songs with bass-baritone Egils Silinš and Born in 1906.

Darzinš and Ivanovs with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, featuring Reinis Zarinš. The Latvian Radio Choir make three appearances at the BBC Proms in 2017, performing Russian Orthodox chant in Prom 37 on 13 August (televised), followed by Rachmaninov’s Vespers in the late-night Prom 38 the same day. On 14 August, in PCM 5 at Cadogan Hall, they will sing excerpts from the Ten Poems on texts by Revolutionary Poets by Shostakovich.

Prom 38: Rachmaninov – All-Night Vigil (Vespers)

Hailed as ‘the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church’, Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil (Vespers) is also one of the loveliest works of any faith – a profoundly moving statement of belief and the last major work the composer completed before he left Russia.

Sung unaccompanied, the Vigil is a choral tour de force, pushing the singers to the limits of both range and dynamics. The effect is strikingly dramatic, encompassing the ecstatic choral celebration of the Resurrection Hymn ‘Today salvation has come’ and the infinite tenderness of the ‘Ave Maria’.