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SKANi publishes ''Vocalises''by Jānis Ivanovs, recorded by the Latvian Radio Choir under the direction of Sigvards Kļava

In the 1960s, the prominent Latvian composer Jānis Ivanovs composed five of his most experimental and expressionistic symphonies: Nos. 9 to 13. This was the era of the harsh style in Latvian art, poetry, music, and culture, and Ivanovs, with his symphonies, fit well into this atmosphere; in fact, he was in its vanguard. But in 1964, Ivanovs also created something else: a small vocalise titled “Autumn Song”, for a cappella mixed choir. From then on, Ivanovs composed the vocalises until a year before his death, and they are dominated by the autumnal, elegiac mood characteristic of his later works. The Latvian national recording label SKANi is releasing them recorded by the Latvian Radio choir, Sigvards Kļava conducting, with pianist Reinis Zariņš joining in one of the compositions. The album (CD, streaming and download format) will be released on October 14, 2022. As a refugee during the First World War, the very young Ivanovs ended up in Vitebsk and Smolensk, where he sang in church choirs as an alto before his voice broke, thus becoming acquainted with the liturgical compositions of the Russian composers Bortnyansky, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. From these, presumably, come the resigned chromatic tones that make up half of the color palette of the vocalises. The other half are diatonic tones and materialised from even earlier but no less vivid childhood memories of early mornings spent herding livestock, surrounded by the gentle hills and lakes, and other scenes and landscapes of rural Latgale and Vidzeme. As soundscapes with imaginatively programmatic titles, the vocalises call to mind a series of compositions from Ivanovs’ youth (symphonic paintings, solo songs, arrangements of folk songs) that were also dedicated to the nature of his homeland and its beauty, sanctity and mystery. In a way, they form an arc connecting the end of his life back to its beginning. Compared to the earlier works, however, the vocalises have the more serene balance and enlightenment that comes from viewing life and the world from a greater distance. Listeners of this album may be surprised to hear some of the vocalises twice. The intention of conductor Sigvards Kļava has been to represent Ivanovs’ masterpieces in action, in development, thus respecting the new ideas brought by later interpretations. In three cases (Illustration, Cumulus Clouds, Fog), both the 1986 printed version and recent editorial versions are included on the album. Reflecting on the role of new romanticism in Ivanovs’ work, musicologist Mārtiņš Boiko has commented: “The concept of a ‘feeling for nature’ finds its fullest and purest expression in the vocalise genre so characteristic of Jānis Ivanovs. The musical landscapes reveal his extraordinary ability to hear colors and shapes and to see sounds – an ability that developed in no small measure due to the contribution of musical impressionism, a movement that Ivanovs followed and studied. When one hears them, Rilke’s words come to mind in a particularly profound and clear way: ‘ there any landscape whose images are not full of the narrative of one who has seen them?’”