Pēteris Vasks

Latvian composer. Studied double bass playing at the Lithuanian State Conservatory and concurrently was engaged in several symphony and chamber orchestras as a double bassist (Latvian Philharmonic, Lithuanian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of Latvian Radio and Television). From 1973 he studied composition with Valentins Utkins at the Latvian Academy of Music in Riga. Initially was influenced by the music of Witold Lutosławski, Krzysztof Penderecki and George Crumb. Later he incorporated elements of Latvian folklore in his works. In the opinion of many critics, Vasks’ music reflects socio-political events in his country. In particular, his symphonies are a symbolic expression of the political situation at the time of the struggle for independence in the Baltic states. Even Wind Quintet No. 2 (1977) may be understood as an expression of hope and desire for freedom during the period of Soviet occupation. Most of his works have a programmatic character and the composer frequently refers in them to natural processes. The complex mutual interaction between man and Nature, values and the beauty of life, as well as the ecological and moral destruction of those values, are themes which are mirrored in his most recent compositions. Among many awards, in 2004 he received the Cannes Classical Award in the category “CD of the Year” and “Best orchestral work” for the recording of his Second Symphony and Violin Concerto “Distant Light”. Currently he lives in Riga as a freelance composer.