Latvian Choral Music. Volume 1
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contents of volume 1:
- 13 songs for male choir
- 1 song for female choir
- 33 songs for mixed choir
- List of Latvian Sounds In Phonetic Transcription
- Short biographical overwiev anf photos of composers
- English translations of All songs
Bibliographical and textological data about each song is to be
found in the commentary in Latvian. The English variant is of an
informative nature with brief descriptions of the songs and their
authors. Data about a text author appears only in the commentary
to the song where his name occurs for the first time. The words
first publication are replaced by the sign *.
- p. 25 K.Baumanis. God, Bless Latvia, for
mixed choir. This simple melody with the composer's words
appeared in the early 1870's and has become the most
popular and historic of Latvian songs. After its first
performance during the official opening of the 1 st Song
Festival in 1873, it became widely known as the
unofficial Latvian national anthem, notwithstanding the
fact that the word Latvia itself was for a time censored
" by the tsarist regime. For Latvia's freedom
fighters during the First World War it became the symbol
of the independent state which was their goal. Hence
declaring it the Latvian national anthem in June 1920 was
but a formality. In June 1945, by the decree of the
occupying Soviet regime, it lost this status for a number
of decades, but regained it again on the l5th February
1990 with the passing of the law On the National Anthem
of the Latvian Republic.
- p. 27 K.Baumanis. Song of My Homeland, for
male choir. First performed at the 1 st Song Festival in
1873, * 1873. Composed after the publication in 1871 of
the poem by Martins Lapa (1846-1909), at the time
a popular author of sentimental and patriotic verse.
- p. 29 K.Baumanis. How the Daugava
Moans, for male choir. 01874. The song is based on
the poem Trimpula (Dithyramba) written in 1873 by Auseklis
(1850-1879), a prominent poet during the period of
National Awakening. It is conceived as an analogy to the
ancient Greek dithyrambs to Bacchus, whose counterpart in
Baltic romanticized mythology, Trimpus or
Potrimps, is mentioned in the text. So too are the
thunder throwing deity Perkons and Latvia's
largest river, the Daugava, with its legendary Staburags
rock. The dark splendour of the music and its community
song genre may account for its popularity and its use for
other song texts during the 1905 Revolution.
- p. 32 A.Ore. Song of the Daugava Fishermen,
for male choir. * 1890. The words ( * 1872) are by the
folklorist and poet F.Brivzemnieks (1846-1907).
The song has now become almost a part of Latvian
folklore. The Daugava is Latvia's largest river; Perkons
(Thunder) is one of the principal deities in Latvian
- p. 35 A.Jurjans. In Latvia, for male choir.
* 1890. Auseklis wrote this patriotic poem in
1875. In keeping with the traditions of romanticism, Auseklis
makes use of mythological and pseudo-mythological
imagery from a romanticized Latvian past: Romava -
the sacred centre, Uzins - a deity, Liga -
the poet's personification of Midsummer Eve. Also
mentioned is the Daugava - Latvia's largest river.
- p. 39 A.Jurjans. Behold, the Rose is Blooming,
for male choir. The lyrics by A. Liventals
(1803-1878) belong to the period of Sentimentalism in
Latvian literature, * 1831. Frequently republished, they
underwent considerable editorial changes in the course of
time. The song, probably originating in 1888, is still
popular in Latvia, even though the lyrics are often
looked upon as a sentimental play of words. In Latvian
mythology Laima is the goddess of destiny.
- p. 43 J.Straume. By the Baltic Sea, for
male choir. * 1902. In this publication the text, which
in the course of time was modified as required by
censorship, has been restored from *.
- p. 48 J. Vitols. Autumn, for mixed choir.
Composed in 1896, - 1898. This is one of the few choral
works in which Vitols has imitated the characteristics of
Latvian folk songs. This was prompted by Auseklis’ poem
(* Midsummer festivity songs. The kokle is a
Latvian string instrument which is plucked. For Potrimps
- see commentary on How the Daugava Moans.
- p. 51 J.Vitols. The Castle of Light, for
mixed choir. The poem by Auseklis (* 1888) is
subtitled Legend of Kurzeme (Kurzeme is a
district in the western part of Latvia approximately
occupying the territory of the Duchy of Courland of
1561-1795). However, the legend about a sunken castle
rising again acquires a wider symbolic meaning in the
poem: the loss of independence by the Latvian tribes and
their organized communities in the l3th century and the
Latvian people's struggle to regain freedom and
independence. The song was composed in 1899, * 1901. It
has become Vitols' most popular choral ballad and
for many decades has been widely used as a symbol of the
fate of the Latvian people and their hopes for the
- p. 57 J.Vitols. The Forest Lake, for male
choir. * 1900, composed in April of the same year. Words
by the German poetess A. Drosste-Hülshoff
(1797-1848). 0 of the Latvian translation by A. Kenins
(1874-1961 ) in 1899. The song is among Vitols'
most popular lyrical portrayals of nature for choir.
- p. 59 J.Vitols. The Day is Dawning, for
mixed choir. Composed 1903, * 1906. The lyrics are by Janis
Esenbergis (1862-1890), one of the early romantics of
Latvian poetry. * of the poem 1890.
- p. 63 J.Vitols. The King's Daughter, for
mixed choir. * 1906, but composed in August 1903, soon
after the publication of Rainis' book of poems Far
off Echoes on a Blue Evening. Rainis (1865-1929),
the most important Latvian poet and dramatist of the
early 20th century, reveals himself here for the firs t
time as a refined lyrical poet and voices his high moral
and social ideals. This book of verse has therefore been
a source of lyrics for Latvian composers time and time
again. The themes of this poem are taken from Latvian
folklore but are given a wider allegorical meaning. The
King's daughter, who languishes underground for six
hundred years, symbolizes the Latvian people's
independence and freedom, lost in the l3th century. The
last verse voices not only of the need to struggle for
freedom, but also for social justice.
- p. 69 J.Vitols. The River and the Life of Man,
for mixed choir. Composed August 1903, 01906. The words
are by Krisjanis Barons (1835-1923), a writer and
well known folklorist, the compiler of the first academic
six volume edition of Latvian folk song texts, Latvian Dainas
(with 217, 966 stanzas). An earlier edition of this poem
was published in 1862. In this somewhat autobiographical
poem the river represents life dedicated to social ideals
and public welfare.
- p. 74 J.Vitols. The King and the Mushroom,
for mixed choir. Composed 1912, 01914. The words ('**
1911) are by FBarda (1880-1919), the outstanding
romantic of Latvian poetry. It is the first of a number
of choral ballads by Vitols which make use of
romantic fantasy and symbolism.
- p. 78 J.Vitols. Three Gypsy Songs, for
mixed choir. Composed 1914, * as a separate publication
in 1916 by M. FBelyayev in St. Petersburg. * of F
Barda's group of poems 1911.
- p. 88 J.Vitols. The Haunted Thicket, for
mixed choir. Composed in 1916, * 1921. Words (* 1913) by V.
Pludonis (pseudonym of Vilis Lejnieks,1874-1904),
well known in Latvian literature for his mastery of the
ballad and long poem. In this song Vitols
continues to develop his choral fantasy ballad (he
himself refers to it as mystically tragic), a genre which
he began in 1912 with The King and the Mushroom.
- p. 98 E.Melngailis. Long Ago, for mixed
choir. Composed 1904, * 1905. 0 of the poem by Rainis
1902. Modifying the traditions of national romanticism, Rainis
enriches a vivid picture of the past with motifs of
social protest and a radiant vision of the future.
- p.103 E.Melngailis. Moonbeams, for mixed
choir. * 1906. The author of this popular poem is Aspazija
(pseudonym of Elza Rozenberga, 1865-1943), the
first and most striking poetess of the late Romantic
period in Latvian literature. * of the poem in 1894 in
her play Vaidelote.(The Vestal). The music for the
first performance of this was composed by Jazeps
Vitols. Later Emils Darzins and Jazeps
Medins also used the poem for their compositions, all
these composers interpreting it as a romance. E.Melngailis.
however. treats it as an emotionally detached serenade
and gives it a lightly swaying character.
- p. l06 E.Melngailis. Latvian Requiem, 4
songs for mixed choir: Move Gently and Quietly. Gently,
Slowly. The Sun is Setting. Doomsday. Melngailis refers
to these four songs as parts of his Latvian Requiem,
although they were composed and published at various
times (* 1906,1912,1921,1911 respectively) and are
usually performed separately; it is not known whether
other parts were also envisaged. The first three songs
are based on extracts from V Pludonis' poem
Requiem (* 1899), selected and modified by Melngailis;
the words of fourth song are by Rainis (* 1903).
- p.130 E.Melngailis. Sailors' Song, for male
choir. * 1912; lyrics (* 1905) by Rainis from his
play Fire and Night. The play is set in the l3th century
when Christianity was imposed upon Latvia and it
submitted to the power of Rome. The lyrics are taken from
an episode in Act 3 where Latvian youths, on their way to
study in Rome, sing a enthusiastic parting song to their
patroness Spidola unaware of the tragic
consequences of the journey at hand for themselves and
for their homeland. Melngailis intended writing an
opera based on the play.
- p.134 E.Darzins. Beloved Motherland, for
male choir. Composed April 1898, *1901. Based on an
excerpt from F. Schiller's play William Tell using
a free translation by Auseklis (* 1873).
- p.136 E.Darzins. Mignon, for mixed choir.
Composed 1900, * 1901. Based on a poem by W. Goethe,
translated by Rudolfs Blaumanis (* 1899) but
considerably modified by the composer and in places
- p.138 E.Darzins. Moonbeams, for mixed
choir. Composition dated 1901, * 1902. For information
about the lyrics see the note on Melngailis' song with
the same title. The song is one of the first and most
outstanding examples of truly subjective lyrical
expression in Latvian choral music.
- p.141 E. Darzins. The Broken Pines, for
mixed choir. Composed February 1904, * 1905. 0 of the
final version of the poem by Rainis 1903. The song
is one of the masterpieces of Latvian choral music of its
time. The broken pines symbolize those striving for
social ideals. The music is remarkable for its masterful
and artistically elevating treatment of the simple
- p.l 47 E. Darzins. In Distant Dreams, for mixed
choir. Composed April 1904, * 1906. 0 of the poem by Aspazija
1895. The same lyrics have been used by Jazeps
Vitols and Alfreds Kalnins in solo songs well
known in Latvia.
- p.152 E.Darzins. Long Ago, for mixed choir.
Composed 1904, * 1906. This is not the only instance in
Latvian music when the same lyrics used by more than one
composer have resulted in choral compositions of equal
worth. While Melngailis' musical interpretation of
the song has an epic nature and expresses a feeling of
monumental calm, Darzins stresses the contrasts in
Rainis' poem and interprets it with emotion and empathy.
- p.l 57 E.Darzins. Mermaids' Song, for
female choir. Composed in 1906. Lyrics from the play
Tragedy by Janis Jaunsudrabins (1877-1962), a well
known Latvian artist and author of poetry and prose.
Acting as goddesses of destiny in the play, the Mermaids
sing these words, attempting to draw the hero, a youth
devoted to abstract ideals, into full-blooded life.
- p.158 E.Darzins. Children of Zion, for
mixed choir. Composed 1905, * 1906. Aspazija's poem (* 1899)
was inspired by the destruction in the late nineties of
the Jauna strava (The New Current) socialist
movement of the Latvian intelligentsia by the Tsar's
forces, with the arrest and persecution of its members.
In the poem images of suffering and a protest against the
trampling of mankind's highest aspirations are heightened
by the use of the motifs and symbols of the Old
- p.163 E.Darzins. Forever Blue, for male
choir. Composed 1909, * 1910. Words are by Karlis
Skalbe (1879-1945), a notable poet and the finest
Latvian writer of fairy tales. * of the poem 1906, but
considerably modified by the composer: while Skalbe
links his mournful landscape with the memory of the
victims of the 1905 Revolution, the song encompasses a
general vision of the suffering of the Latvian people and
of their heroic spirit long ago. The kokle is a Latvian
string instrument; the Daugava-Latvia's largest
- p.166 E.Darzins. Like a Star, for male
choir. Composed and 01910. The lyrics (01906) by Karlis
Jekabsons (1879-1946), a poet orientated towards
- p.169 E.Darzins. I Know, for male choir.
Composed and * 1910. Lyrics (01904) by Janis Poruks
(1871-1911 ), a notable writer of prose and poetry and a
leading neo-romanticist, the first in Latvian literature
to express philosophic ideas about life based on a poem (*
1898) by Rudolfs Blaumanis (1863-1908), a leading
Latvian dramatist and writer of short stories.
- p.178 A.Kalnins. Imanta, for mixed choir.
Composed 1903, * 1906. Lyrics by Andrejs Pumpurs
(1841-1902), a noteworthy representative of national
romanticism, the author of the Latvian national epic Lacplesis
(The Bear slayer). The poem Imanta is based on the
l2th century legendary Liv warrior, a defender of Riga
mentioned in the chronicles and given literary treatment
by the German enlightener G.Merkel (1769-1850) in his
work Wannem Imanta, eine lettische Sage (1802).
- p.l 82 A. Kalnins. As the Swallows Depart,
for mixed choir. Composed early 1907, * 1912. 0 of the
poem by Auseklis 1888.
- p.185 A.Kalnins. Come, Brothers, for male
choir. Composed no later than 1907, * 1914. * of the poem
by Karlis Skalbe 1901.
- p.189 J.Zalitis. The Goblet on the Isle of the
Dead, for mixed choir. Composed 1912, * 1914. The
poem by Janis Poruks alludes to the painting Isle
of the Dead by A. Böcklin (1827-1901 ). At the
same time the goblet, in whose golden drink the anguish
of mankind is drowned, symbolizes the healing power of
- p.198 J.Zalitis. Bythe Bard's Grave, for
mixed choir. The song and the lyrics written in memory of
the composer Emils Darzins (1875-1910), who died
in tragic circumstances, and first performed at his grave
during the unveiling of his monument in Riga 1913. The
lyrics are by Antons Austrins (1884-1934), a
Latvian writer of poetry and prose. The kokle is a
Latvian string instrument.
- p. 201 J.Zalitis. At Night, for mixed
choir. * 1914. Based on one of the classics of Latvian
love poetry written by Rainis (* 1912).
- p. 203 J.Zalitis. The Heart is So Heavy,
for mixed choir. * 1915; * of the poem by Rainis
1902. In this choral elegy the composer's innovative
harmonies, a synthesis of chromatic and medieval
diatonic, are fully expressed forthe first time.
- p. 205 J.Zalitis. The Way to My Homeland,
for mixed choir. Composed 1916, * 1921. The poem by Peteris
Blaus (1856-1930) is typical of the so-called refugee
poetry, a branch of Latvian verse with a specific theme,
written during the First World War when almost a quarter
of Latvia's inhabitants were forced to leave their
- p. 208 J.Zalitis. Birch Grove, for mixed
choir. Composed 1916, 01921. The poet Karlis Jekabsons
merges an impressionistic image of nature with a
patriotic motif. * of the poem 1913
- p. 213 J.Zalitis. The Divine Spirit, for
mixed choir. First appeared in April 1918, * 1921. Lyrics
by J. Poruks (01897).
- p. 226 K.Kazocins. Like Swans, for mixed
choir. The last song written by the prematurely deceased
composer in June 1918, * 1921. The lyrics are by Eduards
Veidenbaums (1867-1892), an vivid figure in early
Latvian socio-philosophic poetry.
- p. 231 A.Abele. In the Clear Blue Distance,
for mixed choir. The song and lyrics written by the
composer while studying at the St. Petersburg
Conservatory, L71914. One of his first compositions, it
already shows his characteristic gift for making an
impression by using unusually long and sustained
- p. 235 A.Abele. In a Haven, for mixed
choir. * 1921. Rainis wrote the poem in 1897 in
prison in Pskov where he was held in connection
with the persecution of left-wing intellectuals during
this period. The wrongs inflicted by his colleagues and
associates, from which Rainis suffered in the
nineties, have influenced the content of the poem.
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