Iveta Apkalna joins Kremerata Baltica on tour to present the program Bach and Baltics

After two weeks in Moscow performing in Zarydye Concert Hall and the Moscow Palace of Youth, tomorrow Kremerata Baltica is traveling to Rēzekne, Latvia, where we are going to start our next tour with the Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna.

The program which we are going to present is called “Bach and Baltics”, consisting of the pieces of J. S. Bach, Latvian composers Peteris Vasks and Ēriks Ešenvalds, and Estonian composer Lepo Sumera.

Iveta Apkalna has kindly agreed to talk to us over the phone about the upcoming tour and about the musical connection between the music of J.S. Bach and the Baltics. With the voice full of laughter and enthusiasm, Iveta says:

“I am very excited to go on tour with Kremerata Baltica. I have performed with the orchestra already twice in my life – once in the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival and once in the Rīga’s Doms Cathedral. During our concert in Riga we made a recording for the Latvian Radio, which was also used in a documentary about me for “ARTE” TV network – a beautiful film called “Dancing with the Organ”. We performed a Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, and even though I perform this piece a few times every year with different conductors and orchestras, to this day I feel that what we did then, in 2008, [the recording with Kremerata Baltica] is the absolute highlight in my experience with this piece. This time I am going to perform two pieces with Kremerata Baltica: J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Organ and Orchestra in D minor, BWV 1052 and the concerto for the Organ, Timpani and Strings “Voices of the Ocean” by Ēriks Ešenvalds.”

It is not a surprise that this year Kremerata Baltica is performing a lot of music by Baltic composers; Kremerata Baltica and Gidon Kremer are the cultural ambassadors from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, thus celebrating the centenaries of the restoration of the independence of the three Baltic States. Surprisingly, there is a deep musical connection between Bach and Baltics.

Iveta says:

“The connection between Bach and the Baltics, especially with Latvia, is very important because, you see, one of the last pupils of Bach – Johann Gottfried Müthel, worked as an organist in St. Peter’s Church in Riga. Müthel got married in Latvia and spent the rest of his life there, so, in a way, Bach’s teaching career ended here, in Latvia. Even though Bach has never been to the Baltics himself, musically there is a connection. I frequently perform works of Müthel and I often allow myself to call him Latvian, since he spent so many years there, although, of course, he was German.

However, even if we forget about this historic moment, there is still a connection between Bach and the Baltics. Bach’s music is genius because it fits well with every style of music from whichever country. It makes every piece of music which we know well or explore for the first time even more rich. When you listen to the contemporary Latvian music, for example, to Ešenvalds, and it is played [side by side] with Bach, you hear it differently. At the same time, you hear Bach differently when you play it [alongside] with Ešenvalds: Bach in this case becomes more modern while Ešenvalds gets even baroque colors in some moments. I think it is not about the contrast between their music, it is more like a dialog. This concerto “Voices of the Ocean” was dedicated to me by Ēriks Ešenvalds, and I premiered it in 2014 on the famous organ in Rīgas Doms Cathedral. We collaborated very actively together with Ēriks – it was his first work for organ and the orchestra and of course he had some questions. I already played his “Fantasia for Organ”, that was also dedicated to me, and I was very convinced that he knows what to do with the organ.

Erik has a fantastic voice and he was a part of Academic Choir of Latvia for many years. Every composer, every musician who sings knows how to make the organ pipes speak because it is, in a way, a little bit like singing. The pipes work only when you blow the air through them, they work just in the same way as a human voice. Ēriks wrote a great work. This concerto also has a deep musical connection to J.S.Bach. The title of the piece says “Voices of the Ocean” not just because it sounds beautiful, but because for Ešenvalds Bach, as a personality and composer, is the ocean. He says, “He means the ocean for me”. Therefore, he also dedicated this piece to Bach. That’s why this concerto begins with the quote of Bach’s d moll Toccata.

What also makes me very excited is that the one and only performance [with this program] in Latvia would be in my hometown, in Rēzekne. This is the city where I was born, where I grew up, where I first fell in love. I don’t live there since I was 18, but this is my city, it still means so much to me. I was also very actively working on [supporting] the fact that the new concert hall would get a digital organ. This was my idea and my effort. I played during the opening of this concert hall [in 2014] and I started my own festival there which happens every year in October. So, this is much more than a hometown for me. Although now I live all around the world, as you can imagine, I still feel a very special connection to Rēzekne and the people there. This is great that we would be starting our tour there.”

Interview conducted by Iurii Gavryliuk.

Join us for our concerts with Iveta Apkalna in Rēzekne, Innsbruck, Rosenheim, Landau, Fulda, Essen, Hamburg and Leverkusen. For the details about dates, times and tickets please visit our Events page.

Iveta Apkalna joins Kremerata Baltica on tour to present the program “Bach and Baltics” ©Juris Zīģelis