26 July 1863|
Valmiera Russian Empire
24 April 1948 (aged 84)|
Lübeck Allied-occupied Germany
|Education||Saint Petersburg Conservatory|
Vītols, born in Valmiera the son of a schoolteacher, began his studies in composition in 1880 at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. After graduating in 1886, he remained at the Conservatory to teach composition and reached the rank of Professor in 1901. His pupils there included Nikolai Myaskovsky and Sergei Prokofiev. Vītols was a close friend of fellow professors Alexander Glazunov and Anatoly Lyadov; he would regularly participate at Mitrofan Belyayev's "Weekly Fridays"—regular meetings of prominent Russian composers at Belyayev's home. At the time, Belyayev was Vītols' primary publisher. Besides academia, Vītols also spent time as a music critic for the St Petersburger Zeitung from 1897 to 1914.
In 1918, Vītols returned from Russia to his newly independent Latvia to conduct the Latvian National Opera. The following year, he established the first Latvian Conservatory of Music, which was later renamed the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music in his honor, and he ran the composition classes there between 1919 and 1944. His most prominent students during his tenure were Jānis Ivanovs, Ādolfs Skulte and Tālivaldis Ķeniņš. He also helped co-found the Latvian Composers' Society in 1923. In 1944, he moved to Lübeck in Germany and lived there until his death in 1948. His remains were returned to Riga in 1993.
His choral music, especially Gaismas pils (The Castle of Light) is very popular with Latvian choirs, and is often included in the repertoire of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival. Vītols vocal and choral works are published by Musica Baltica Ltd in Riga. He died in Lübeck.
Taking his cue from his Russian colleagues, Vītols became the leading exponent of national romanticism in Latvia. He is considered to be the father of a distinctively Latvian classical music, being the first Latvian composer to achieve international stature. His work reveals the undeniable influence of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, not least in the brilliance of its orchestration, an assessment which was shared by Vītols' friend and fellow composer Alexander Glazunov. During his time in Russia, Vītols became deeply interested in Latvian folklore and conducted the Latvian Choir in Saint Petersburg. His melodies clearly draw upon his heritage, and often directly feature Latvian folk tunes. In striving to forge a musical style for Latvia, Vītols emulated the processes of the Russian national school. His large-scale works, which are mostly cast in sonata form, are often characterized by impressive dramatic development. Overall, in comparison with many other 20th-century composers, he tended to be rather conservative but nonetheless possessed a masterly composition technique.
|1||Piano Sonata in B-flat minor||1886|
|27||String Quartet in G major||1899|
|35||The Song (Dziesma)||1908|
|45||Northern Lights (Ziemeļblāzma)||1914|
|14||Récit for Viola or Cello and Piano||1894|
|32||8 Latvian Folk Tunes for Piano|
|Symphony in E minor||1886–88|
|42||Fantasy on Latvian Folk Tunes||1908–10|
|Autumn Song (Rudens dziesma)||1928|
|28||The Bard of Beverīna (Beverīnas dziedonis)||1891|
|—||Sermon on the Mount (Kalna sprediķi)||1943|
|12||Sketch for Cello and Piano|
|39||Rhapsody On Lithuanian Folksongs|
|29||10 Chants Populaires Lettons
|6||Variations sur un Theme Lette||1892|
|4||La fête Lihgo||1889|
|5||3 Songs (Dziesmas)
|2||Mélodie et Mazurka||1889|
|53||3 Songs (Dziesmas)
|55||Berceuse in A||1921|
|11||3 Mélodies for Voice and Piano
|50||5 chansons d'ete (Vasaras dziesmas)||1918|
|58||12 Chansons Enfantines||1921|
|63||Piano Sonatina in B minor||1927|
|52||3 Songs (Dziesmas)
|68||8 miniatures (Astonas miniaturas)||1928|
|—||String Quartet No. 1||1885|
|9||Mazurka et Valse||1892|
|61||3 Songs (Dziesmas)||1925|
|59||3 Songs (Dziesmas)||1923|
|Song of the Sun’s Radiance||1911|
|There is Still a Silent Night in My Mind||1911|
|33||Deux miniatures (Divas miniaturas)||1905|
|Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra||1918|
|44||3 songs (Dziesmas)||1910|
|48||5 preludes de Naurena Elzas||1914|
|18||Berceuse et Étude||1895|
|31||7 Lieder (Dziesmas)
|40||8 Songs (Dziesmas)||1909|
|49||5 Latvian Folk Songs||1916|
|51||3 Songs (Dziesmas)||1919|
|56||3 Lieder (Trīs dziesmas)
|60||Le Chagrin du Pueple (Tautas bedas)
|62||3 Songs (Dziesmas)||1925|
|—||Autumn Song (Rudens Dzisma)|
|—||Symphony in E minor||1886–87|
|—||Song of a Fisherwoman||1911|
|—||Song of the Sun’s Radiance||1911|
|—||There is Still a Silent Night in My Mind||1911|
|—||Goblet on the Isle of the Dead||1911|
|—||Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra||1918|
|—||From the Tree of Acknowledgement||1924|
|—||A Song of Autumn||1928|
|—||Latvian Country Serenade for orchestra||1934|
|—||Sermon on the Mount||1943|
|—||Legend for string quartet||1942|
|—||Pastorale (Pastorāle) for Organ||1913|
|—||29 mélodies de chorals d'après le livre de
l'église évangélique luthérienne lettonne
(29 korāļi meldiju grāmatā latvijas evaņģēliski
– luterāņu draudzēm)
|—||Liturgie de Pâques (Lieldienu liturģija)||1935|
Celebration and remembrance
Jāzeps Vītols music days in Gaujien started soon after 1922, when he spent summers in Gaujiena "Anniņas" with his wife. Celebrating his birthday, different choirs from all over the country started coming to Gaujien for July 26 to celebrate Vītols' birthday with music. In 2003, a summer camp for children from music schools was started around this celebration, creating an orchestra and a choir to celebrate music and have fun as well as practice their instruments.
- Naxos profile.
- "Gaujienas pagasts". www.gaujiena.lv. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
- "Balsojiet Ineses Galantes talantos par Karīnu Mazūru un Nikolu Bergmani!". www.vitoleni.lv. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
- "Jazeps Vitols (1863-1948)". Composers. Naxos. Retrieved 2007-03-08.
- Braun, Joachim and Klotiņš, Arnold. "Vītols, Jāzeps". Grove Music Online (subscription required). ed. L. Macy. Retrieved on March 8, 2007.
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