Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Romualds KALSONS
Violin Concerto (1978)
Cello Concerto (1970)
Symphonic Variations for piano and Orchestra (1978)
Valdis Zarins (violin)
Agnese Rugevica (cello)
Janis Zilbers (piano)
Latvian National SO/Terje Mikkelsen
rec Riga, April-Oct 1999
SIMAX PSC1213 [72.33]

Kalsons, a pupil of Adolfs Skulte (himself a neglected lyrical symphonist of the first rank - there are nine Skulte symphonies), is a prolific composer who has written music in every genre. I do not know any of his other music but going by these concertante works Kalsons is no anonymous purveyor of fashion-victim trendiness. His music has substance, dissolute caprice and colour.

Kalsons' Baltic fantasy flashes and crackles like nightmare lightning. In the violin concerto the music progresses through four movements with an air of desperate excitement. Think in terms of a razor wire update of the witchery of Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto crossed with the remorseless sprint of the finale of Khachaturian's concerto and in the finale we even get a rumba 'engine-beat'. Of course the andante does provide a let-up but this is an elegy over the sort of blasted landscape which Stravinsky created for The Rite of Spring. At 6.13 [3] life returns in a sparkling violin dance amid birdsong rising to two grand orchestral statements.

The single movement Symphonic Variations is contemporaneous with the violin concerto. Brightly imagined romantic music with a stony and dark undertow like a stress corroded version of Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Totentanz again with high piping bird calls. This is like de Falla crossed with Lutoslawski and with the lyrical weave of the Adolfs Skulte symphonies.

The Cello Concerto is much earlier and shares with the other works orchestration in restless motion. It lacks the lyrical pabulum of the violin concerto being more obviously preoccupied with the metallic collision and violently clashing masses typical of many Polish works of the 1960s and 1970s.

Music of cold and captivating brilliance. Highest recommendation.

Rob Barnett

See also Guest review from International Record Review

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