Q&A with Ināra Jakubone and Pēteris Vasks:
When did you compose the Pater noster and what meaning does its title hold for people today?
It was in the eighties when my father, who was a minister, often asked – son, when will you compose „The Lord’s Prayer”? One that the congregation could sing in faith – simple but convincing. I answered that I hadn’t matured enough to write it. And so the idea kept being postponed; my father passed away, and only after many years did I finally write Pater noster. That’s why for me the piece has a kind of duality – it is for my own father, and for our common Father. Pater noster is a prayer, and I have always thought that prayer is a spiritual concentration, an act of faith, asking for some guidance in this world where we all are lost.
Sacred music and sacred texts were the first musical impressions of my childhood. Although there was no organ, only a harmonium, in the church of my hometown Aizpute, we had a fairly good church choir and, listening to their singing, the desire to compose came to me quite naturally. It was a very personal process. I did write sacred songs, yet didn’t give them to anyone to sing.
Later, when my father was a minister in Riga, I wrote a few sacred songs for his church choir. When I began to study composition I quickly understood a fundamental thing. Namely, that in order to be spiritually free you must write instrumental music or at least something with folkloric texts, because in that political regime sacred music was simply forbidden. It was clear to everyone that if you write sacred music, it will end up at the bottom of your desk drawer and never see the light of day. But at that time for me it was more important to hear a live performance, to gain musical experience. For this reason I wrote almost no vocal music and, of course, even less sacred music. In my opinion writing sacred music is the highest responsibility.
If true, deeply felt faith is not inherent in sacred music, if it lacks genuine conviction, then it is especially amoral. When my father encouraged me to do it, I wasn’t capable of experiencing it, for to me many other things seemed far more interesting… And then came the nineties, the regime fell, and an interesting metamorphosis occurred wherein many „court” composers of the previous regime stopped praising the (communist) party and suddenly became believers. Again, in the context where new rules came into play and new conditions encouraged writing of sacred works to the point of being almost a trend, I felt no desire to write something like that…
Pater noster was my first sacred piece written in my mature years.
Pēteris Vasks (1946), whose mission has always been to talk about higher values –humanity, conscience, God, nature, eternity, the Latvian spirit – has put his name on the map of musical world as the most recognized Latvian composer. His music is being performed across the globe; he provides sanctuary from the contemporary cycle of capitalism and confirms the existence of the vertical spiritual axis that defies storming, breathless materialism. The world of Vasks preaches, serves the divine, brings light and provides solace.
Although Pēteris Vasks became famous for instrumental works, the choir as the central axis of Latvian music culture has been ever-present in his art. As with Mozart, whose writing seems deceptively simple but requires a high level of performance mastery, Vasks’ choral music features endless lines, long notes and complex intonations that demand the finest emotional vibrations and titanic vocal endurance.
The prayer Lord, open our eyes (2011) to texts by Mother Teresa was premiered in the concert programme envisaged by Sigvards Kļava entitled Prayers of Mother Teresa. The concert took place at Riga Cathedral during the year’s darkest season as a musical service before advent, built around the work of Pēteris Vasks with other contemporary pieces by Latvian composers to texts by Mother Teresa. Vasks: “Mother Teresa, small and fragile, embodies phenomenal spiritual power and energy. She is an endless source of inspiration to me, as well as an example of true Christian love, speaking through actions, not mere words.”
The other work of Pēteris Vasks with texts by Mother Teresa The Fruit of Silence (2013) was written to a request from the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. […] The composer characterizes this work as a very quiet meditation on the symbol of a path: “This path has five signposts: prayer, faith, love, service and peace. I want this composition to serve as a reminder that such a path exists.”