LMIC radio

Marģeris Zariņš

(24.05.1910 - 27.02.1993 )

Composer and writer, a unique figure on the Latvian arts scene in the second half of the 20th century. In the post-war period he maintained and developed the approach to folklore that had already appeared in the choral arrangements of the younger generation of composers in the 1930s, mainly in the works of Volfgangs Darzins and Janis Kalnins (see also). More than his predecessors, however, he chose to develop the elements of dance, humour and play found in folk music. The heightened expression of play brought with it developments in the art of choral writing: an increase in its virtuosity and its enhancement with techniques normally used in instrumental music.

He composed mainly opera and musicals, and works in other genres of music with lyrics. At times Zarins paid homage to the Soviet regime in his work, and yet in the 1960s his sometimes shocking innovations of form, his paradoxical mode of thinking, and his use of stylization allowed things to be viewed in a fresh and ironic way. This new vision brought with it freedom of thought and served to erode the standardized aesthetics and dogmatic thought which formed the cornerstone of Soviet ideology.

Born in Jaunpiebalga (in the District of Cesis), Zarins graduated from Jelgava Teachers' College in 1928, and studied organ, piano and composition at the LC (1928–1933). He was musical director at the Daile Theatre (1940–1950), and chairman of the Latvian Composers' Union (1951–1952, 1956–1968).

His musical output is large and diverse. His best works display a theatrically concrete, striking imagination, expressive modifications of style and genre, artistic skill, and exceptionally diverse forms of humour. He composed five operas (of which four have been performed at the Latvian National Opera), two musical comedies, vocal-orchestral works, six concertos, chamber song-cycles, organ music, music for theatre and film, and over 100 songs for choir, including ten song-cycles.

Zarins is also the author of around ten collections of short stories and several novels.