"For those unfamiliar with the name, Pēteris Plakidis was born in Riga in 1947. His initial studies were carried out at the Emīls Dārziņš College of Music before he became an undergraduate at the Jāzeps Vītols State Conservatory, later known as the Latvian Academy of Music. Taught by composers Jānis Ivanovs and Velantīns Utkins, he graduated in 1970. Further postgraduate study was completed at the conservatory in 1975. Between 1969-1974, Plakidis was musical director at the Latvian National Theatre. In 1991 he held the post of professor of composition at the Latvian Academy of Music. He died in 2017. He worked in all the familiar genres, including orchestral, concertante, chamber and vocal music. This new release from the Latvian-based Skani label features four world premiere recordings of his symphonic works, penned between 1975 and 1996. The orchestra is the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, under its Honorary Conductor Vassily Sinaisky.
Plakidis’ music is lyrical and approachable and draws on Latvian folk music, Renaissance and Baroque forms. From this wealth of disparate sources, emerges music of immense beauty and allure.
Composed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Canto, which opens the disc, transports us around the orchestra, its aim being to spotlight each individual section. There's a hint of doggedness in the onward rhythmic tread of the opening measures, but the vista gradually opens out into something less determined. The harp section's diaphanous glow adds some radiance, whilst the brass invigorates. Bird song and tranquillity mark the woodwinds, whilst the strings weave a mesh of sound around a persistent ostinato bass. In the closing measures peace and repose gently whisk the listener away. Sinaisky's wonderful control of the transitions seals the success of this captivating performance.
The start of Variations evokes glowing embers providing balm to the senses. As the work progresses, Plakidis ratchets up the rhetoric to increase the tension, which eventually becomes explosive.
More transparent orchestral scoring characterizes Legend, where Plakidis ulilizes seven tones as opposed to twelve. The climate is one of fresh, vitalizing air. Chromaticism and dissonance give way to pure diatonicism. Ancient modes are found a place, and the score draws heavily on Latvian folklore.
The final piece is Glance Back, which also happens to be the title of the disc. Once again, the scoring is lightly textured and there’s an almost chamber music-like feel to proceedings, with everything scaled down to modest proportions. There’s bird song, and an evocation of vast spaces and broad expanses of water.
This well-recorded programme offers thought-provoking music, performed with infectious enthusiasm and zeal."