Keninš Rugged, Challenging Fifth and Eighth Symphonies

Review by: David Hurwitz

Kenins58

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Tālivaldis Keninš (1919-2008) was born in Latvia, but spent the largest portion of his life in Canada, and his name turns up on recordings dedicated to the music of both countries. He was educated, however, in France, and his music definitely reveals the influence of his main source of inspiration, Arthur Honegger. There is that same seriousness of purpose, amounting to grimness, and a similar rugged, dissonant, vigorous idiom–only more so. Compared to his model, Keninš’ music is more percussive, less anchored in tonality, but still fundamentally melodic and at heart, lyrical. It definitely takes some getting used to, but many listeners will find it worth the effort.

The Fifth Symphony (1976) starts with a bang, and the tension scarcely lets up through four connected movements lasting about twenty minutes. Give Keninš credit for not overstaying his welcome and fatiguing his listeners with an excess of relentless, grinding turmoil. The Eighth Symphony (1986-his last) has a concertante part for organ, making for some truly scarifying climaxes alongside meditative passages of a more brooding, quasi-liturgical character. The Aria for strings impressed me least, being simply glum and grey.

However, I have to say that Andris Poga and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra plunge into Keninš’ challenging idiom with a vengeance, turning in bracing, invigorating performances of both symphonies, very well-recorded. Iveta Apkaina presides over an appropriately forbidding sounding organ, and the ultimate impression is that of a kind of purgative tantrum. You may not want to hear it every day, but there are circumstances when this sort of thing might be just the ticket.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None


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