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Articles > Country and people

Latvian Music

Author: Dr.art. Ilma Grauzdiņa
Visited 17329 times
At the beginning of the last century, Latvian composer and music critic Emīls Dārziņš posed the question: "Can Latvia not also be a nation known for its arts? In what way shall we be great, if not in the arts?"

In the course of this last century, the world and also Latvia have changed beyond recognition, and the hopes expressed by Dārziņš have gradually been fulfilled. In the 1920s and 1930s, rejoicing in its newly-won independence, Latvia made itself heard in the choir of nations making up the world. In the 1960s -1980s Latvians managed to retain their place in the world whilst struggling with the contradictory requirements of the Soviet regime. During the 1990s, however, following the renewal of Latvia's independence, the world of Latvian music has become especially rich and diverse. Now Latvia is open to the winds of the world, and Latvian music and other arts go out into the world. Barriers are disappearing and differences levelling out - and nowhere so rapidly as in the arts. Ideas, experiments and discoveries - how similar they often are all over the world!

"It is only with Latvian music that we can be interesting to others and our task is to stimulate the demand for Latvian music elsewhere in the world." That is the opinion of the artistic director and conductor of the Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Kļava, and many of his colleagues share this view.

What are our aspirations then for Latvian music in the 21st century? It is our wish that it be heard throughout the world, and that it retains at the same time its own distinctly Latvian sound.

Sacred Music in the Churches

In its essence almost every genre of music provides a spiritual experience that can bring a sense of equilibrium into our hectic world. This is true most of all for sacred music, for music performed in the church, particularly organ music and sacred vocal-instrumental works - masses, passions, requiems and oratorios.

At the moment Latvia has around 250 churches with functioning organs. There are four-manual instruments in the Dome Church in Rīga, and in the Holy Trinity Church and St.Anne's Church in Liepāja. Congregations with professional organists are developing their musical life and becoming more and more active: choirs and youth ensembles, concerts and even festivals are being organised. This is so not only in Rīga (in St.Peter's, St.John's and St.Gertrude's, in the Anglican Church, the Church of Jesus and other churches), but also in Liepāja, Jelgava, Cēsis and many other towns.

The principal centre for organ and sacred music performance in Latvia, however, is the Dome Church in Rīga. The International Organ Music Festival Rīgas Doms has taken place here 15 times. Latvian organists of various generations and world renowned guest artists have performed a wealth of organ music at these festivals, including such major works as Verdi's Requiem, Schnittke's Requiem and Mendelssohn's Te Deum. Another festival, the International Boys' Choir Festival Rīgas Doms, initiated by the Director of the Rīga Dome Choir School Jānis Ērenštreits, has always been very popular. Every autumn the State Choir Latvija and its conductor Māris Sirmais present a rich and diverse programme as part of the Sacred Music Festival. Just as important is the contribution to this event of the Latvian Radio Choir and its conductors Sigvards Kļava and Kaspars Putniņš. The sacred works of Latvian composers Rihards Dubra, Maija Einfelde, Romualds Jermaks, Artūrs Maskats and Pēteris Vasks are often performed at concerts in the Dome Church and elsewhere. Every year a Bach Week is held in honour of the great baroque master. In the second half of the 1990s, the St.John Passion, the St.Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor have been performed at these Bach music festivals. Latvian organists have in their turn realised several other large projects in 2001 - 2002: Jevgeņija Ļiscina in a concert series presenting all of Bach's organ works, Vita Kalnciema in a concert series performing the classics of Latvian organ music, and Ligita Sneibe with a concert series called Portraits of Latvian Composers. Regular organ music concerts take place in the Dome Church all year long at least two or three times a week.

The Stars of Latvian National Opera

Opera and ballet stars have always been loved in Latvia, receiving the most beautiful flowers and the most exuberant praise.

For some years now, singers from Latvia have been highly acclaimed not only in their homeland but also abroad. Opera stars like Inese Galante, Inga Kalna, Sonora Vaice, Elīna Garanča, Egils Siliņš and Ingus Pētersons have already found fame outside Latvia.

After a period of major restoration and reconstruction in the 1990s, the Latvian National Opera opened its doors again as a truly magnificent and comfortable venue.

The Latvian National Opera has a wide repertoire that includes works by Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Gluck, Donizetti, Wagner, Richard Strauss and Johann Strauss. Operas written by Latvian composers are also included in the repertoire: the last few years have seen productions of Uguns un nakts [Fire and Night] by Jānis Mediņš, Pazudušais dēls [The Prodigal Son] by Romualds Kalsons, Parīzes Dievmātes katedrāle [Notre Dame de Paris] by Zigmārs Liepiņš and Putnu opera [The Birds' Opera] by Jānis Lūsēns. The participation of rock musicians as soloists in a number of productions has also added variety to the repertoire.

Equally dynamic, at home and touring abroad, is the ballet company. Among the company's most significant achievements in choreography in the last few years are Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet, and the ballet Dzeltenais tango [Yellow Tango], a new work choreographed to Astor Piazzolla's / Gidon Kremer's music performed by Kremerata Baltica. The ballet Sidraba šķidrauts [The Silver Veil] is a modern choreographic interpretation of a new work, a musically impressive symbolic drama written by Latvian composer Juris Karlsons. The main ballet soloists include Inese Dumpe, Viktorija Jansone, Diana Baranova, Genādijs Gorbaņovs, Andrejs Rumjancevs, Marians Butkevičs and many younger members of the company. Jūlija Gurviča and Aleksejs Avečkins deserve special mention - Latvia has recognized their exceptional contribution to Latvian ballet by awarding them the Music Grand Prix.

The annual Rīga Opera Festival in June has now become a tradition - a magnificent week of performances demonstrating the most striking productions of the previous season. The International Baltic Ballet Festival From Classical to Avant-Garde, initiated in 1996, is the most ambitious event in the ballet world in Rīga. It is organised annually by the Latvian prima ballerina and choreographer Lita Beiris, who invites the greatest choreographers in Europe and the USA to present their art in Rīga.

Orchestral Voices United in Harmony

The traditional home of symphonic music in Latvia is the Greater Guild Concert Hall. In the Middle Ages Rīga's rich merchants assembled here to discuss the development of the political, economic and cultural life of Rīga in order to harmonise the various wishes and needs of its residents. Now the many different instrumental voices of the orchestra unite here in admirable harmony, and the many different manifestations of Latvia's symphonic world find a common home here.

Today there are several orchestras in Latvia performing symphonic music. The Latvian National Symphony Orchestra is the largest and most long-standing, with a history that goes back to 1926. For many years it was directed by Leonīds Vīgners and Vasily Sinaisky, later also by Imants Resnis, Pauls Megi and Terje Mikkelsen. Alongside many of the world's masterpieces, the orchestra's repertoire always includes works by Latvian composers, such as Jānis Ivanovs' Symphony No. 4 Atlantis and the symphonies of Imants Kalniņš, Romualds Kalsons' Violin Concerto and works by Pēteris Plakidis, Pēteris Vasks, Artūrs Maskats and others.

The Liepāja Symphony Orchestra has been under the leadership of Imants Resnis since 1992. Liepāja and its orchestra are rightly proud of their annual International Piano Stars Festival. It has developed into an exciting event, attracting many celebrities and considerable international attention.

Unusual and daring projects characterise the Rīga Festival Orchestra led by Normunds Šnē. The orchestra is periodically assembled to prepare a specific programme of contemporary symphonic music. Šnē aims to demonstrate and prove to his audience that the 20th century music can be very powerful, interesting and truly representative of our times.

Ever since 1972, the professional wind orchestra Rīga has been an integral part of musical life in Latvia. Developing in the 1990s under the leadership of Jānis Puriņš, the band has now become truly multifunctional: alongside renditions of classical concert music (both original works and arrangements), the band also plays jazz and pop music, as well as the traditional wind repertoire - marches and dance music - performing all these with professional perfection.

The Subtle Sound of Chamber Music

Chamber music encompasses a great diversity of music, embracing the activities of soloists, ensembles and chamber orchestras. In Rīga there is no shortage of venues suitable for chamber music concerts. The most outstanding is Wagner Hall, located in the building in which Richard Wagner, still very young at the time, worked for several seasons in the Rīga City Theatre. Other venues include the Chamber Hall in the Lesser Guild Hall, the reconstructed Blackheads' Hall, and the Ave Sol Concert Hall. Chamber music is performed all year long in the halls of the Rīga Latvian Society, at the Latvian Academy of Music and in many arts centres, clubs and schools.

Latvia has many outstanding musicians today and members of the younger generation, still to complete their studies, are constantly adding to their ranks.

Latvia is home to a variety of chamber music ensembles. Some are the more traditional kind, such as the Rīga String Quartet, the Jānis Bulavs Trio and piano duets Nora Novika and Rafi Haradžanjans, and Antra and Normunds Vīksne. Others are not so traditional.

The development of chamber ensembles is favourably influenced by the annually organised competition for the best chamber ensemble at the Latvian Academy of Music, as well as the International Student Chamber Music Festival, existing now for over 30 years. Another international festival (Chamber Music in September) with a programme that always includes new works by Latvian composers, is also beneficial to the development of chamber music playing in Latvia.

Latvia's chamber orchestra scene has much to commend it. An announcement for a concert featuring the Rīga Chamber Players under the direction of Normunds Šnē is tantamount to guaranteed high quality. This is a particularly dynamic and flexible group of musicians, specialising, on the one hand, in baroque and early classical music, and, on the other hand, in the performance of truly contemporary works. The New Chamber Orchestra of Rīga, directed by Viesturs Gailis, is also worthy of note.

Quite unusual is the chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica, founded in 1996 and led by Gidon Kremer, the world famous violinist from Rīga. The orchestra is made up of young musicians from the three Baltic States. For five to six months a year this international orchestra goes on tour together with its director and soloist Gidon Kremer, prepares various programmes and performs in the world's most prominent concert halls. Suffice to mention just one fact that indicates the high level reached by this group - the Grammy Award they won in 2002 for their album After Mozart.

Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Music

Just a couple of decades ago it was only a small group of people in Latvia - those specialising in the history of music - who had a clear conception of early music. Not being part of Latvia's concert repertoire, early music was practically nonexistent for wider audiences. The first harbinger of change was the early music ensemble Canto, created in 1982 by Irēna Nelsone. In 1989 two more groups followed suite: the chamber choir Sacrum led by Andris Veismanis and Mārtiņš Klišāns, and the instrumental ensemble Ludus. Nevertheless, it was only when several different groups appeared one after another during the course of the 1990s, that medieval, renaissance and baroque music really became an integral part of the musical life of Latvia. The baroque orchestra Collegium Musicum Rigense, founded by Māris Kupčs in 1993, took its name from an ensemble existing in Rīga around 1690. The Schola Cantorum Riga, also founded in 1993 and directed by Guntars Prānis, uses the name given to centres for Gregorian chant in Western Europe. Renaissance and baroque dances have attracted increasing attention, and so have authentic ancient instruments and the traditions associated with their use.

Early music is, of course, best heard in surroundings that still retain an air of antiquity - in medieval castles and baroque palaces, in their parks and gardens, and in the old town squares. There is no shortage of such venues in Latvia, but the most beautiful must be Rundāle Palace, built in the 1730s and decorated in a baroque and rococo style. Rundāle Palace and the nearby medieval Bauska Castle have regularly hosted the International Early Music Festival, allowing this splendid music to become once again part of Latvia's musical life.

Audiences in their thousands have enjoyed performances in the courtyard of Rundāle Palace as part of these Early Music Festivals: Purcell's operas Dido and Aeneas and The Fairy Queen, Handel's dramatic oratorio Acis and Galatea and his orchestral suite Music for Royal Fireworks with a truly impressive display of fireworks in the palace gardens, the madrigal comedies Festino by Banchieri and L'Amfiparnaso by Vecchi, Mozart's ballet Petits Riens, renaissance and baroque style dancing, knight tournaments and much more.

The contribution of conductor Andris Veismanis has been particularly significant in the revival of early music in Latvia. Currently Latvia's most knowledgeable baroque music specialist and interpreter, Veismanis has played a major role in the Early Music Festival productions, as well as participating in many other early music concerts - in performances of masses, oratorios and various orchestral programmes. He was also largely responsible for the inclusion of a baroque opera - Handel's Alcina - in the 1997/1998 repertoire of the Latvian National Opera, and the staging of a performance that earned the production team Latvia's Music Grand Prix.

Traditional Music Today

It is fitting and not at all surprising that the unique collection of Latvian folk songs Latvju dainas compiled by Krišjānis Barons opens with a section on songs and singing. The 1,052 quatrains in this section describe singing in every situation in life, and song as an integral part of life. A recurrent theme in these texts is pride in a good singing voice and a good knowledge of songs, a testimony to the fact that, for Latvians, songs have been a joy and a necessity for centuries.

It was because Latvians were denied the opportunity of developing a national, professional culture until the end of the 19th century, that they expressed their creativity so powerfully in folklore. As a result there are over 2.8 million units of folklore material in the Latvian Folklore Archives in Rīga, including over a million folk song texts and almost 30,000 melodies.

Today these songs are still in constant use - sung both in unison and also as arrangements. They are sung at various private and public social gatherings, performed by choirs and taught at school.

Moreover, as a result of the folklore movement that began at the end of the 1970s and blossomed during the 1980s, new life has been instilled into the most ancient layers of Latvian folklore, in which the music is inseparable from the mythical view of the world, from ancient rituals, and indeed from life itself. In many European countries these ancient folk music traditions have practically vanished from social life. In Latvia, on the other hand, many ethnographic ensembles and folklore groups have inherited these ancient singing traditions directly from folk singers, or learned from descriptions notated in the relatively recent past.

A knowledge and appreciation of the older layers of folklore has brought with it changes in the way folklore is presented. Rather than staging concert-style performances that are difficult to reconcile with ancient folk traditions, folklore ensembles now gather together in groups for more informal singing and organise events celebrating various traditional festivities. Conditions that are as authentic as possible are chosen for these gatherings - the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, the Hill of Dainas sculpture park in Turaida, and various town squares (Dome Square in Rīga, for instance, at markets celebrating Herb Day in midsummer and Miķeļi in autumn). It is also becoming customary to include audience participation in the singing, dancing and game-dances presented at these events. This is the practice of folklore ensembles Skandinieki and Budēļi in Rīga, Senleja in Sigulda, the dance group Dandari and many other groups. From the 1980s onwards, the role of the leaders of Skandinieki, Helmī and Dainis Stalts, has been particularly important; their activity, their thirst for authenticity and their skill are an inspiration to many other groups.

Baltica, the largest international folklore festival in the Baltic region is regularly held every year in one of the Baltic States - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The importance of this festival from a national, emotional, informative and, yes, even a political point of view cannot be overestimated.

Audiences in Latvia have gained new insights from the Contemporary Folk Music Festival. This festival brings together local groups and guest ensembles that have chosen to play so-called post-folklore music or world music. In Latvia this movement was initiated by Ilga Reizniece and her highly innovative group Iļği (founded 1981), an ensemble that has earned many notable awards for its recordings and concert programmes.

The festival Kokļu dienas allows those, who play the kokle, a traditional Latvian string instrument, to gather together and show their art. There is also an international folk dance festival Sudmaliņas, organised every other year. The aim of the dance festival is to preserve and popularise traditional Latvian dancing and to get to know dances of other nations, as well as to stimulate the development of new work based on folklore.

In all, there are around 200 variously orientated folk ensembles in Latvia at present, with some 3,000 members, indicating that many Latvians today still feel a need for and derive pleasure from traditional singing and dancing, and playing traditional instruments.

The Phenomenon of the Latvian Song Festivals

Collective choral singing and combined choir concerts are not in themselves something new or unusual. Such events have taken place in many countries in the past and continue to occur today. What makes the Latvian National Song Festivals unique, however, is that nowhere else in the world has this tradition proved to be so admirably lasting, with such mass participation, nationwide organization and such a stable festival programme model.

The first Latvian National Song Festival was held in 1873. It was preceded by various smaller regional festivals that served to pave the way for this first nationwide festival 130 years ago. A succession of such festivals over the years have led to the 23rd Latvian National Song Festival and the 13th Dance Festival in the summer of 2003.

A look at some figures will serve to illustrate the phenomenon of mass participation. At the third festival in 1888, there were 2,618 singers in the massed choirs. At the festival in 1973 celebrating the centenary of the first national festival, there were 14,800 singers in the choir, 1,444 musicians in the wind orchestra, around 100 musicians playing kokles and 1,190 dancers performing on the open-air stage in Mežaparks in Rīga. Record numbers were reached in 1990 with a total of 35,438 participants - choristers, dancers and musicians - at the 20th Latvian National Song Festival and the Tenth Latvian National Dance Festival. This event, the first festival after the renewal of independence in Latvia, fully expressed the feelings of national pride, elation and unity felt by the Latvian people at this momentous time.

Every festival has included massed choir concerts and a street procession. Almost always there have been competitions between choirs, dance groups and wind orchestras. The participants have always been in colourful traditional costumes, the women with meadow flowers in their hands, the men with garlands of oak leaves. There are songs that are included every time - "Gaismas pils", "Jāņuvakars", "Pūt, vējiņi" - and we cannot even imagine a festival without them. The Principal Conductors and Dance Directors are always acclaimed and greeted with masses of flowers. After the official conclusion of the festival, the singing continues almost the whole night through - in lodgings shared by the participants, in the open air, on buses and trains.

How can we explain all this? What is the purpose of these events that consume so much of our time, energy and finances? The answer lies in the fact that for Latvians song festivals are not just festivals for singing, not just choral music concerts with opportunities to show themselves and to view others. For Latvians the song festivals are a symbol of national unity and identity. They are national rituals that are awaited with love, prepared for with respect, executed with full commitment and performed with honour. In this way they are analogous to the ancient seasonal rituals that marked the mythical cycle of time.

Today this ritual continues. It provides us with a means of preserving our unique and valuable heritage and bringing it to the attention of the world. It is needed to ensure our very existence as a nation.

Latvia's Choirs and Conductors

Most of the new national schools of composition emerging in the 19th century quickly developed their national operas, ballets and orchestral music masterpieces, and deemed choral music to be a less important, secondary genre. The development of choral music in Latvia, however, became the province of its most outstanding composers, conductors and community leaders. As a result, choral music became the leading genre of Latvian professional music during its first stages of development, and the involvement of professional composers in choir conducting - a respected and socially important occupation. This unusual situation in Latvia had far-reaching effects.

One result was the development of many very good and several truly outstanding choirs from the multitude of amateur choirs existing in independent Latvia in the 1920s and 1930s. The Reiters' Choir, led by Teodors Reiters, made ten major concert tours during these two decades and brought Latvian choirs fame and recognition outside Latvia.

Fifty years later, the top choirs of the 1970s and 1980s followed in the footsteps of their famous predecessors. They included many very good and several truly remarkable choirs that were able to present exceptionally difficult works at song festival choir competitions. Furthermore, there were now several tens of these top choirs, many more than existed in the 1930s. Mixed choirs such as Daile, Juventus, Mūza and Rīga became legends in their time. So did male voice choirs such as Absolventi, Dziedonis, Gaudeamus and Tēvzeme, and female voice choirs such as Dzintars and Ausma.

Many of these choirs are still in existence and continue to give outstanding performances, in spite of new conductors and choristers taking over from the old. But the 1990s have also seen several fundamentally new trends appearing on the choral scene. One of these is the flourishing youth chamber choir movement. Ave Sol, founded in 1969 and led by Imants Kokars, was not only historically the first chamber choir, but also for many long years the leader in its class.

Initiated by Imants Kokars, the International Chamber Choir Festival Rīga dimd takes place every other autumn, inviting world-class chamber choirs to Latvia from all over the world.

In a short space of time, a string of new choirs have appeared, such as Amadeus, Austrums, Balsis, Fortius, Intis, Muklājs, Sacrum, Sapnis, Senaiskalns, and Skali. Former award-winning choirs, such as Mūza, Skaņupe and Ezerzeme, have reappeared in the form of youth choirs. Each choir has its own individual approach and style. Many variants are available: early music, church music, contemporary works by Latvian composers, the incorporation of jazz elements, rock music programmes, combining choirs with various instruments, participation in larger projects with the use of movement, lights and stage production… A new generation of elite amateur choirs is developing as the 21st century unfolds. Its leader at the moment is Kamēr, a youth chamber choir formed in the Rīga First Grammar School and led by Māris Sirmais.

Very highly rated at present are the two main professional choirs in Latvia. The Latvian Radio Choir, which has been under the leadership of Sigvards Kļava and Kaspars Putniņš, is in size and essence a true chamber choir (24 singers). The State Choir Latvija, led by Māris Sirmais, is a choir of 70 singers and unrivalled in works that require volume and power. Both choirs willingly perform contemporary works by Latvian composers, and both have the ability to perform the most complicated scores written in our times.

Latvia's choirs today are all very different. Once in four years, however, they unite to sing together under the Latvian Song Festival flag, professing what they all have in common: they all belong to Latvia and to its choral scene.

A Multicoloured Mosaic of Popular Music

Among the many street events during the celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Rīga in August 2001, was one that provided particularly striking proof of the enthusiasm of Latvian people for singing. That was an event called Rīga sings with the motto "800 years in 800 minutes". Here, gathered at the foot of the Freedom Monument, a huge crowd of people sang the whole day long, from early morning until late at night. They sang together with choirs and folklore ensembles, and went through an extraordinary cocktail of songs - popular folk songs and ditties, melodies from theatre productions, old musical comedies and new musicals, well-known Latvian choral classics, patriotic songs and songs of other nations. They sang from a volume containing over 200 songs or following texts on the screens above them, but many of the songs they sang from memory. It was truly a vocal encyclopaedia of popular songs, as varied as popular music itself.

If we look closely at this mosaic of popular music, we can see that it is made up of many individual pieces, each one very different from the others and representing many different types of music.

One such piece, cherished by many in Latvia, represents popular songs often sung at social gatherings - simple songs and ditties, dance music hits and witty satirical songs on topical issues. Songs from a variety of sources with catchy tunes, straightforward rhythms, easily memorised lyrics, and generally just one definite mood - jaunty, humorous or perhaps mournfully sentimental.

Another, rougher piece represents rock groups, whose variety is as great in Latvia as it is elsewhere. They appear and disappear, rise to the heights of popularity and sink into oblivion. More lasting are those that manage to find something specifically their own and can express it in their own way. The oldest rock music festival in Latvia is Liepājas dzintars, held for the 25th time in Liepāja in 2000.

A third piece in the mosaic could represent various staged shows, large-scale productions in which lights, colours, movement, stage effects and sets are just as important as the music. All these additions to music accompany both regular pop music concerts and also the great rock festivals.

A fourth piece could indicate jazz musicians. In its pure form, jazz would not be classed as popular music, but rather as a distinctive means of self-expression in music, and this can undoubtedly be felt in concerts performed by high-class jazz musicians. Jazz elements are, however, often added to various genres of pop music, and this, of course, is a different matter. An important event for the development of Latvian jazz today is the International Rhythmic Music Festival Rīgas ritmi.

A fifth piece might show us the new theatrical genres of music, often the meeting point for various musical styles and genres - rock operas, rock oratorios, musicals, instrumental theatre and multimedia performances.

But that is the nature of popular music - on the one hand, so conservative, staunchly traditional and intractably enduring, on the other hand, so extravagant, so ready to voice dissent, and continually subject to change.

Musical Education in Latvia

Musical education in Latvia has strong traditions that have been developed over a long period of time. The most striking illustration of the selfless work done by music teachers in general education schools and school interest groups is provided by the nationwide Schoolchildren's Song and Dance Festivals.

The education system for professional musicians in Latvia may be looked at as a three-storey pyramid. At the base of the pyramid are over 100 music schools, attended by 16,600 children. These schools are available to pupils from the ages of six to 16, as a supplement to their education at schools with a general curriculum. In addition to their regular lessons, music school pupils can also take part in various competitions and festivals. Such opportunities are offered, for instance, by the Nova Nomina and Talants Latvijai concert series for music school pupils held in the Rīga Latvian Society building.

In the centre of the professional music education pyramid are ten music colleges, where pupils receive both their secondary education and also their professional music qualifications. There are music colleges in Ventspils, Liepāja, Jelgava, Cēsis, Rēzekne, Daugavpils, Jūrmala and, of course, Rīga, which has three: the Emīls Dārziņš Music School, the Rīga Dome Choir School and the Jāzeps Mediņš College of Music.

At the top of the pyramid are the institutions for higher education. A complete spectrum of professional music education is offered by the Latvian Academy of Music, but music teacher qualifications can also be obtained in Daugavpils and Liepāja.

Various activities are organised for students attending music colleges or the Academy of Music to help them develop their professional skills. For string instrumentalists, for instance, the Augusts Dombrovskis International Competition for Young Violinists and Cellists has served this purpose, and for pianists and chamber ensemble musicians, there is the Jūrmala International Competition for Piano Duets & Chamber Ensembles with Piano. The most prestigious in Latvia are the Jāzeps Vītols International Piano and Vocalist Competitions.

As our international contacts have expanded, a wide range of opportunities has opened up for Latvia's young musicians and they are taking advantage of them. Many are studying abroad, supplementing their studies or training with various experts outside Latvia, participating in the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra, attending the Gustav Mahler Academy and the International Bach Academy, and taking part in many other cooperative ventures.

Music in Your Pocket…

Just as long as the world continues to revolve, so there will always be differences between people. They will always have different tastes and wish to listen to different types of music. That is why our musical life and concert programmes are so varied. Practically every evening there are concerts and theatre performances in Rīga, and almost every month there is some festival, competition or concert series. And not just in Rīga: people who wish to play or listen to music live all over Latvia.

Nothing can replace listening to a live performance of music. Nevertheless, modern recording techniques have ensured that you can return home from your visit to Latvia, not only with memories of the music you have heard, but also - with music in your pocket.

© Text: Dr.art. Ilma Grauzdiņa

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