Navarra Quartet

String Quartets nos. 1-3

Format: CD
Label: Challenge Classics
UPC: 0608917236521
Catnr: CC 72365
Release date: 03 September 2010
1 CD
Challenge Classics
Catalogue number
CC 72365
Release date
03 September 2010

About the album

"His music is the product of a country that for years struggled under the yoke of the Soviet regime.“How can a composer create in such surroundings?” Vasks often wondered. “How does he survive in such a chronically dire situation?” His answer seems simple: “By suffering in sympathy with the suffering of the entire world. For me, this is the only solution. Suffering is not a game or a fantasy to me. I sit in the midst of it; my family sits in the midst of it; my people. I feel the heartbeat of suffering. That is for me the source of our power.” And the source of his music, as well, for in his scores, Vasks is a somber pessimist with a glowing edge of never-flagging hope. He agitates in his work against the situation in his country. “When I think about modern life, it is impossible to not realize that we are balancing on the edge of the end of time.” They are heavy themes that motivate Vasks’ music – in his string quartets, too. In his first three string quartets – he has written five – the transformation is clearly perceptible from the direct sources of his inspiration to an abstraction of his worry and suffering.

In every movement of the First String Quartet, written in 1977 and revised in 1997, sings the formerly gagged voice of an oppressed Latvian.

The Second String Quartet, from 1984, bears the title Vasaras dziedajumi (Summer Tunes) and is a reflection of Vasks’ love for nature, especially birds.

In his Third String Quartet, from 1995, Vasks not only transformed his string quartet writing to a coherent style that reserves an important role for the harmonic overtone series, he also attained a level of abstraction that presents suffering, nature and birds, but in a highly stylized form.

Although this Third Quartet is more abstract, the most important symbols of Vasks’ work still figure prominently: the aleatoric passages representing chaos, the birdsong (birds represent ultimate freedom for Vasks), the folk music that underscores a Latvian identity, and the lovely cantilenas that represent both a soothing somberness and consoling hope. “I see it as my duty to bring light into the lives of my people, a people who have suffered so much and despite their regained independence are still far removed from actual freedom.” - (parts of the linernotes with this cd by Paul Janssen )

Pëteris Vask's strijkkwartetten gespeeld door het Brits-Nederlanse Navarra Quartet
De mooie en intense muziek van de Letse componist Pëteris Vask is het product van een land dat jarenlang onder druk van het Sovjet-regime heeft geleefd. De muziek van Vask wordt dan ook gemotiveerd door zware thema's. Het eerste strijkkwartet weerspiegelt het gevoel van een onderdrukte Let, terwijl het tweede strijkkwartet een weerspiegeling is van Vask's liefde voor de natuur, en dan met name vogels. Hoewel het derde kwartet abstracter is, zijn de belangrijkste symbolen van Vask's werk nog steeds prominent aanwezig: chaotische passages, fluitende vogels en de volksmuziek die zijn Letse identiteit benadrukt.

Voor dit album heeft het bekroonde Navarra String Quartet samengewerkt met Vask om een opname te maken van de eerste drie strijkkwartetten van de vijf die hij componeerde. Het Navarra Quartet werd opgericht in 2002 aan the Royal Northern College of Music onder leiding van Dr. Christopher Rowland. Het kwartet bestaat uit Junior Fellows van de Royal Northern College of Music en postdoctorale studenten van het Alban Berg Quartet uit Keulen.

“All three works, recorded in the presence of the composer, are projected with almost graphic immediacy by the Navarra Quartet who deliver compelling performances captured here in extremely vivid sound.” ***** BBC Music Magazine, 2010

"...uncanny wisdom and a good sense of timing..." - The Strad, 2011

Die Mitglieder des Navarra Quartet - 2002 am Royal Northern College of Music in Großbritannien gegründet - sind Schüler des Alban Berg Quartetts. Pêteris Vasks' erste drei Streichquartette werden in ihrer hoch emotionalen Interpretation zu einer berührenden Abstraktion von Sorge und Leid.


The Navarra Quartet was formed in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of
Music under the guidance of the late Dr Christopher Rowland, the Quartet
were Junior Fellows at the RNCM and postgraduate students of the Alban Berg Quartet in Cologne. The Quartet has won numerous prizes and awards,
including Second Prize in the 2007 Melbourne International Competition and First Prize in the 2005 Florence International Competition. They have taken part in the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove and during 2008 were resident quartet at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh and at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. In 2009 the Navarra‘s gave debut concerts at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Philharmonie in Luxembourg and Schwetzinger Festspiele and took part in the Haydn series at Wigmore Hall, broadcast by BBC Radio 3. They also recorded Haydn’s 7 Last Words on the Cross for Altara Records for which they commissioned 9 paintings for illustrated performances from world-renowned artist Jamie Boyd, and gave performances at the Royal Northern College of Music and the City of London Festival.

Over the last two years the Quartet has appeared at major festivals and venues in Europe including the Rheingau and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festivals in Germany, the Aix-en-Provence and Bellerive Festivals in France, the Kattegat and Sandviken Festivals in Sweden, and given recitals in Italy,
Ireland, Russia, the USA and Bahrain. They have toured throughout the UK
and worked with Wayne MacGregor‘s Random Dance Company on a new work called Entity with music by Joby Talbot giving a series of performances at Sadler’s Wells and in Aldeburgh and Amsterdam.

Future plans include return visits to Wigmore Hall and Aldeburgh, concerts
in Switzerland, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Bahrain and a tour
throughout Australia including recitals in Melbourne and Sydney and a residency at the Huntingdon Estate Music Festival. In 2010 the Quartet record their first CD for Challenge Records as part of a longterm recording project.

Collaborative artists with whom the quartet has worked include the Elias and Sacconi Quartets, Richard Harwood, Guy Johnston, Hansjörg Schellenberger, Jiri Hudec, Julius Drake, Allan Clayton, Patricia Bardon, John O’Conor and Alasdair Tait. They have broadcast for BBC Radio 3, RAI 3 (Italy), Radio 4 (Holland), SWR (Germany), Radio Luxembourg, Swiss Radio and ABC Classic FM (Australia). Passionate about education, the Quartet are an associated quartet at the RNCM, have residencies at Repton School in Derby and at St
Christopher‘s School in Bahrain and are part of the Wigmore Hall’s Chamber Challenge program.



Play album


Navarra Quartet - String Quartets Nos 1-3, Petris Vasks EPK
Navarra Quartet plays Vasks in Vrije Geluiden


Novoselye • Housewarming
Perles de Pluie
Café des Chansons feat. Charlotte Haesen
Flor da Noite
Luís Rabello / Floor Braam
Du bout des yeux
Café des Chansons feat. Charlotte Haesen
Constellations Ardentes
Olivier Darbellay / Noëlle-Anne Darbellay / Benjamin Engeli
Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4 (second version)
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
La Mer / Ma Mère l’Oye
Het Gelders Orkest / Antonello Manacorda
Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 77 / In tempus praesens
Simone Lamsma / The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Rudolf Koelman / Musikkollegium Winterthur
Heartfelt - Romantic Works for Horn
Rob van de Laar
Violin Concertos
Linus Roth / London Symphony Orchestra / Thomas Sanderling
Forbidden Music
Daahoud Salim