“In Zālīts’ songs, the effort to use all means of modern harmony culminates in undeniable success. They capture the audience with their freshness, unobtrusive illustration and vibrant colour. Zālīts is the freshest and most mischievous among our composers, and not only among the younger generation,” said Prof. Jāzeps Vītols in 1913 of Jānis Zālīts’ (1884–1943) first compositions for choir, made while still a student. At that time, there were still no professional choirs in Latvia to serve as an experimental laboratory for composers seeking a new path. It was also a time when the German choral style was held in high regard. But Zālīts, a courageous innovator, strived for a breath of the contemporary in music, and this challenged many of his contemporaries to re-examine ingrained opinions and often also choir singers and conductors to radically step out of their comfort zones.
Zālīts’ mastery is a thorough knowledge of the richness of music in the world and at the same time the ability to protect his own work from obvious signs of influences. It is the skill in subtly weaving the Latvian code into his work as well as preserving the integrity of his stylistic expression from his very first composition to his last.