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Jāzeps Vītols

(26.07.1863 - 24.04.1948 )

Jāzeps Vītols (Joseph Wihtol) – the first truly universal master of Latvian music whose creative work raised almost all the main genres to the level of classic perfection and faultless artistry.

He is the intellectual father of several generations of composers. His pedagogical principles reflect those of his teachers and companions at the St. Petersburg Conservatory – Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov and Anatoly Lyadov. After graduating in 1886 he remained at the St. Petersburg Conservatory as an instructor. In 1908 he was appointed Professor of Composition, a post he held until 1918, when he returned to Latvia to become both Rector and Professor of Composition at the Latvian Conservatory in Riga.

Fleeing the Soviet occupation in early 1944, Vītols found himself a refugee in Germany, where he was appointed Director of the UNRRA Baltic DP Music College founded in Detmold (1946–1947).

For almost half a century his activity and powerful personality were an inspiration and a driving force in the development of Latvian music. His choral works, numbering more than a hundred, display thematic and musical variety, autonomy in the musical setting of poetic images, a structure and design combining variety in development with the retention of unity, reminiscent of instrumental music, and a fully-developed sense of mood and harmony. While still at St. Petersburg he developed to a high level of perfection the dramatic ballad, a genre characteristic of Latvian music.