Pēteris Vasks (born April 16, 1946) is a Latvian composer.
Vasks was born in Aizpute, Latvia, into the family of a Baptist pastor. He trained as a double-bass player, and played in several Latvian orchestras before entering the State Conservatory in Vilnius in the neighboring Lithuania to study composition, as he was prevented from doing this in Latvia due to Soviet repressive policy toward Baptists. He started to become known outside Latvia in the 1990s, when Gidon Kremer started championing his works and now is one of the most influential and praised European contemporary composers.
Vasks' early style owed much to the aleatoric experiments of Witold Lutosławski, Krzysztof Penderecki and George Crumb. Later works included elements of Latvian folk music, such as his gentle and pastoral cor anglais concerto (1989). His works are generally extremely clear and communicative, with a solid and muscular sense of harmony. Lyrical passages may be followed by agitated dissonances, or interrupted by sombre sections with a march-like feel. He made extensive use of minimalist techniques as well, but never became a slave to any particular method.
Vasks feels strongly about environmental issues, and a sense of nature both pristine and destroyed can be found in many of his works, such as the String Quartet No. 2 (1984). Other important works include Cantabile (1979) and Musica dolorosa (1984) and "Bass Trip" (2003) for solo double bass . He has written five string quartets, the fourth (2003) and fifth (2006) of which were written for the Kronos Quartet. Vasks was the recipient of the Vienna Herder Award in 1996 and the Latvian Grand Music Award in 1997, the latter for his violin concerto Tālā Gaisma (1996-7). His important works also include "Viatore", Symphony #2, "Music for a deceased Friend", etc.
I recently discovered his music with the CD that includes Musica Adventus, Viatore and the concerto for Cor Anglais.. Viatore is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard.. It moved me in such a profound way.. I hadn't reacted this way to music in a long time.. It's so wonderfully modern, yet so at the core of human emotion, and with such a gorgeous sense of harmony.. I heartily recommend this composer! Such a pleasant surprise..
Anyone have any comments on him??