State Choir "Latvija"
The State Choir “Latvija” is a universal ensemble and the largest professional choir not only in Latvia but also the entire Baltics. It is in demand among the most outstanding conductors and orchestras around the world.
Māris Sirmais has served as the choir’s artistic director and chief conductor since 1997. Under his leadership, the choir has cultivated and perfected its unique, warmly nuanced sound and vocal mastery. A cornerstone of its repertoire is large-scale vocal-symphonic works ranging from Baroque-era oratorios and masses to 20th-century symphonies, requiems and even operas. The choir also excels at refined performances of a cappella programmes. Its repertoire is continually supplemented and updated with innovative compositions, including in the genres of jazz and popular music (for example, its collaboration with Joe Zawinul and Sigur Rós).
The State Choir “Latvija” has premiered many works by Latvian composers. Its “Latvian composers for Latvia’s centenary” cycle was particularly extensive – over the course of two and a half years, the choir premiered a cappella compositions by more than sixty composers, and the project culminated with a special celebratory concert on May 4, 2018. Premieres of music by Latvian composers also play an integral role in the choir’s annual sacred music festival. The choir enjoys a particularly close collaboration with composers Ēriks Ešenvalds, Rihards Dubra, Pēteris Vasks, Jēkabs Jančevskis and others.
The International Sacred Music Festival organised by the choir was established in 1998. It features musicians and composers from around the world and has grown into one of the most-awaited events of each summer on the classical music scene in Latvia.
The State Choir “Latvija” has won the Latvian Grand Music Award several times (1998, 2000, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015). It has also received the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers Award (2003) and the Latvian Annual Ministry of Culture Award (2007).
Over the decades, the State Choir “Latvija” has collaborated with many world-class symphony orchestras, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and symphony orchestras in Finland, Singapore, Germany, the United States, Estonia, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The choir has performed with such distinguished conductors as Mariss Jansons, Zubin Mehta, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Vladimir Ashkenazy, David Zinman, Valery Gergiev, Simone Young, Steven Layton, Andris Nelsons, Vladimir Fedoseyev and others. It has performed at many prestigious concert halls, such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, the Culture and Congress Centre in Lucerne, the Stravinsky Auditorium in Montreux, the Gasteig in Munich, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonia, Lincoln Center in New York City and others.
One of the choir’s highlights has been performing with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and conductor Mariss Jansons during the orchestra’s world tour in honour of its 125th anniversary.
The choir’s discography includes classics of Latvian music (Jurjāns, Dārziņš, Garūta, etc.) as well as music by contemporary composers (Vasks, Ešenvalds, Dubra, etc.). It has recorded albums with, among others, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra and Gintaras Rinkevičius, the Nordic Symphony Orchestra and Anu Tali, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Mariss Jansons, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Ashkenazy, and the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra and Simone Young, which have been released by Wergo, Ondine, Harmonia Mundi, Hyperion, Naxos and other labels.
The State Choir “Latvija” was established in 1942 under the direction of conductor Jānis Ozoliņš. Subsequent conductors were Jānis Dūmiņš and Daumants Gailis, and for almost a quarter of a century beginning in 1969 the choir’s sound and mastery were refined by Imants Cepītis and Ausma Derkēvica.