International Sacred Music Festival (Starptautikais Garīgās Mūzikas Festivāls)

Photographers: Janis Deinats, and Didzis Grodzs
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Country and Region LatviaRiga
Type of Festival Music
Location of Festival Riga, Riga, Latvia
Festival Contact Information

Valsts Akadēmiskais Koris LATVIJA
State Choir LATVIJA
Kalku iela 11A
LV-1050 Riga,
Phone/fax: (371) 67223839

Festival Description

The origins of the International Sacred Music Festival date back to 1998. At that time the State Choir Latvija laid the groundwork for a new tradition in Riga intending to enrich Riga’s cultural milieu and reinstate spiritual values in today’s society. The Festival traditionally takes place at a time when Riga’s concert life is scarce but the tourism season is in full swing. The Sacred Music Festival brings a diverse genre into the festival movement in Latvia with its foremost emphasis on the performance of large-scale vocal, instrumental and a capella pieces. This year celeberates the 10th anniversary of the festival with special surprises for the audience.

Festival Dates August 24 - September 7, 2013
Festival Links

Festival Story:

For centuries, the word of God and the presence of God have inspired musicians to create cantatas, oratorios and musical poems thus bringing new meaning to these words through musical expression. The First Festival in 1998 presented contemporary Latvian music (Maija Einfelde’s Ave Maria, Peteris Vasks’ Dona nobis pacem, Andris Dzenitis’ Song of the Sacrament, Arturs Maskats’ St. Francis of Assisi Prayer of Peace, Lucija Garuta’s Meditation, Romualds Kalsons’ Recitative, solo and duet, Romualds Kalsons’ Farewell, as well as Requiems by Faure, Mozart and Lloyd Webber.

At the second festival (1999) spirituality was manifested in several remarkable compositions—Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Brahms’ German Requiem, Faure’s Requiem, Poulenc’s Gloria, Bruckner’s Mass in E minor, Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces and Mozart’s Exultate, jubilate. Latvian music was represented by the first performance of Peteris Butans’ mass Libera me, Domine, as well as Janis Kalnins’ Music for string orchestra, Arturs Maskats’ Lacrimosa and Leons Amolins’ Memorial Mass Return of Souls.

Special highlights of the Third Sacred Music Festival (2000) were Bach’s High Mass and Handel’s Messiah to celebrate the 315th anniversary of both masters. Performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius was dedicated to the centenary since the completion of the oratorio. The festival also included performances of Dvorak’s Bible Songs and Requiem. To sustain the tradition of promoting Latvian music, Pauls Dambis’ The Riga Book of Psalms was given its premiere performance.

The Fourth Sacred Music Festival was marked by the 800th anniversary celebrations of the city of Riga held in August 2001. The program included premiere performances of newly written Latvian works—Georgs Pelecis’ oratorio God is Love, Rihards Dubras’ Mass Signum Magnum and Maija Einfelde’s oratorio Morning Liturgy, as well as generally approved classical values—Haydn’s The Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, and two programs of sacred music by Monteverdi, Schutz, Gabrieli, Tavener, Taneyev and Kodaly.

In 2002 we met in the first jubilee—the Fifth Sacred Music Festival where the world famous Georgian composer Giya Kancheli lent a special aura. The composer’s presence at the concert which featured his Psalm 23 from his prayer Exil and Styx was a highlight of the festival. Each subsequent concert, too, brought its own musical flavour and uniqueness: Latvian premieres were Frigyes Hidas’ Requiem, Juep Franssens’ Harmony of the Spheares, Leos Janacek’s Msa Glagolskaja and Hector Berlioz’s oratorio L’Enfance du Christ, as well as rarely staged Felix Mendelssohn - Bartoldi’s oratorio Elijah. In 2002 the galaxy of performers included conductors Janis Purins and Wolfgang Schofer (Germany), violist Daniel Raiskin (The Netherlands), organist Kristine Adamaite, soloists- Egils Silins, Marina Tropina, Juris Adamsons and Giedrius Zalys (Lithuania).

The Festival of 2003 presented to its listeners latest pieces of contemporary music and also some premiers of classical music never before performed in Riga. Conductor Andress Mustonen introduced listeners to the renaissance sacred music of Spain and Portugal  Frey Manuel Cardosso Missa pro defunctis; premiere in Latvia C. Franck’s  oratory Christ’s last seven word on cross. Choir Symphony by Latvian composer Pēteris Butāns. Special events of the festival—concerts of Henrick Mikolai Gurecky and Arvo Part with participation of composers.

The festival of 2004 brought new and interesting musical meetings with Latvian composer Imants Raminš who is living and working in Canada and English composer Sir John Tavener.  This festival was significant also with the premiere of Latvian composer’s Indra Risˇe oratory Song of songs, it was also broadcasted on Euroradio live.

The 8th Festival in 2005 can be characterized by terms synthesis and spirituality. On this festival there were performed works of different ages starting from G. Donizetti till modern authors, e.g. premiere of Ēriks Ešenvalds Passion and Resurrection and Mazā pasija by Latvian composer Imants Zemzaris. Interesting programs were concerts of Belgian and Georgian sacred music, Berlin Mass and Te Deum by Arvo Part. Special guest of the festival was Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov.

In addition to the State Choir Latvija, performers such as Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Riga Chamber Players, Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra, Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, German-Latvian Youth Orchestra, early music ensemble Hortus Musicus, choir Kamer… appeared at previous festivals. The podium was taken by conductors Maris Sirmais, Imants Resnis, Gintaras Rinkevicius, Aleksandrs Vilumanis, Leons Amolins, Juris Vaivods, Anita Berzina, Andres Mustonen (Estonia), Martin Winkler (Germany), Simon Phipps (Great Britain), Timothy Brown (Great Britain), Alexandre Shumski (Germany) and Martin Sieghart (Germany). Festival concerts featured vocal soloists Inga Kalna, Sonora Vaice, Elina Garanca, Kristine Gailite, Antra Bigaca, Evita Zalite, Aira Kuzmicka, Olga Bolgari (Austria), Viesturs Jansons, Miervaldis Jencs, Krisjanis Norvelis, Romans Polisadovs, Aivars Krancmanis, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Sergejs Martinovs, Ansis Sauka, Raitis Grigalis, Andris Gailis, Aleksandrs Polakovs, Ruslan Zinevics (Ukraine), Algirdas Janutas (Lithuania), instrumental soloists Marta Sudraba (cello) and Andris Nelsons (trumpet). The organ was played by Aivars Kalejs, Atis Stepims and Talivaldis Deksnis.

The 9th International Sacred Music Festival was organized by State Choir “Latvija” in collaboration with “Latvian Concerts”. It took place from August 22 until September 11, 2006 in Riga, Jūrmala and Liepāja. Just like all the previous years the organizers were following traditions—charity concert, priemier of original works by Latvian composers (Fides. Spes. Caritas. by Andris Dzenītis, the work received The Great Music Award 2006; and Agape by Daina Klibiķe, which was dedicated to counter tenor Sergejs Jēgers); special guest of the Festival was world famous Alexander Knaifel. Among the artists of the Festival there were soloists and conductors from Austria, England, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Lithuania and Estonia. Important accents of the Festival were concerts devoted to the 250th anniversary of the great composer V.A. Mozart with performances of motets “Exultate, jubilate”, Kronungsmass” and “Requiem”. In the closing concert of the Festival artistic director Māris Sirmais had chosen “War Requiem” by Benjamin Britten in memoriam of 5th anniversary since terrorists attacked World Trade Centre in New York. With performance of the “War Reqiuem” was dignified memory of all the terrorism victims.


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