Into Silence, the new album from ABC Classics released today, features pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska performing the music of an extraordinary generation of composers from the Baltic states: Henryk Górecki (born Poland, 1933), Arvo Pärt (Estonia, 1935), Pēteris Vasks (Latvia, 1946) and Georgs Pelēcis (Latvia, 1947).
The album features works for solo piano along with concertos and orchestral works, recorded with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under Johannes Fritzsch – himself born and raised in what was then East Germany.
Górecki and Pärt, Vasks and Pelēcis all grew up in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, and their music looks back to the trials of the preceding years and speaks with hope of the future. These composers grappled with cultures in which music was simultaneously highly prized, but bound by strict social and political constraints. The rare genius of these four men produced music that was of distinctive beauty, profound simplicity and an appreciation of the silent.
The music of Georgs Pelēcis is largely undiscovered on disc and in performance. His All in the Past, an elegy for violin and orchestra, mixes the influence of tango with the styling of the baroque; but it’s his Concertino bianco (literally ‘Little White Concerto’) for piano and orchestra, which opens the album, that may well be the piece de resistance of 20th-century music in this new recording from Cislowska.
Inspired by Gregorian Chant and Orthodox Christianity, the music of Arvo Pärt includes the ancient and the new. The simple rhythm and stepwise melody that he used and called ‘tintinnabuli’ (Latin for ‘bell ringing’) produced the exquisite Spiegel im Spiegel, and the hypnotic repetitions that are shared by his other solo piano works on this album, Pari intervallo and Für Alina.
The landscape of his Latvian homeland underlies Pēteris Vasks’ music, finding comfort that eluded this son of a clergyman in a strictly secular regime. In his music for solo piano, the simple gestures of White Scenery evoke the calm of a snowbound landscape, while Music for a Summer Evening evokes the serenity of dusk.
Henryk Górecki became a household name in the 1980s after the phenomenal success of his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which made him the highest-selling classical composer of modern times. His Three Pieces in Olden Style shares the luminosity of that chart-topping work, while his Piano Concerto contains a sense of movement, echoing the rhythms of baroque dances.
Tamara-Anna Cislowska’s recordings have won, amongst others, the 2015 ARIA Award for Best Classical Album and Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice. She recently toured as a soloist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
PELĒCIS Concertino bianco
1. I. Con intenerimento
2. II. Con venerazione
3. III. Con anima
4. VASKS Vasaras vakara mūzika (Music for a Summer Evening)/ 5. Cantabile
6. PÄRT Spiegel im Spiegel
GÓRECKI Three Pieces in Olden Style
7. I./8. II./ 9. III.
10. VASKS Baltā ainava (White Scenery)
GÓRECKI Piano Concerto, Op. 40
11. I. Allegro molto/ 12. II. Vivace marcatissimo
13. PÄRT Passacaglia [feat. Ike See violin]/ 14. Pari intervallo
15. PELĒCIS All in the Past [feat. Emma McGrath violin]
16. PÄRT Für Alina
DIGITAL BONUS TRACKS
17. PÄRT Für Anna Maria/ 18. Für Alina (Extended version)
Tamara-Anna Cislowska piano
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra | Johannes Fritzsch conductor
Available on CD and digitally.