Jāzeps Vītols

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Jāzeps Vītols
Born (1863-07-26)26 July 1863
Valmiera Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire
(now  Latvia)
Died 24 April 1948(1948-04-24) (aged 84)
Merchant flag of Germany (1946–1949).svg Lübeck Allied-occupied Germany
Nationality Latvian
Education Saint Petersburg Conservatory
Known for Music
Spouse(s) Annija Vītols

Jāzeps Vītols (German: Joseph Wihtol; 26 July 1863 – 24 April 1948) was a Latvian composer.


St. Petersburg Conservatory, 1913.

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.[1] After graduating in 1886, he remained at the Conservatory to teach composition and reached the rank of Professor in 1901.[1] His pupils there included Nikolai Myaskovsky and Sergei Prokofiev.[1] 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.

Vītols was active not only as a composer, pedagogue, and conductor, but was also a pianist and prolific music critic. He was a member of Latvian student fraternity Fraternitas Lataviensis.

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.


Opus Orchestral Chamber Vocal Piano Year
1 Piano Sonata in B-flat minor 1886
21 Dramatic Overture 1895
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
37 Sprīdītis
  • Amethysts
  • Emeralds
  • Pearls
  • Rubies
  • Diamonds
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
8 Berceuse 1892
39 Rhapsody On Lithuanian Folksongs
29 10 Chants Populaires Lettons
  • Skaisti dziedi lakstīgala Rīgas torņa galiņā
  • Apkārt kalnu gāju, kalniņa uzkapu,?
    Redzēj' savu sirdspuķīti gauži raudādam!
  • Āvu, āvu baltas kājas, Lecu dārziņā
  • Aijā, žūžu, lāča bērnis Plakanāmi kājiņāmi
  • Trīcēt trīcēj' visa Rīga Kas to Rīgu trīcināj'?
  • Pūt vējiņi, dzen laiviņu, Aizdzen mani Kurzemē
  • Redz kur jāja div' bajāri, Zīda pušķi zemi slauka
  • Pati māte savu dēlu Kara vīru audzināja
  • Kas to līgo ielīgoja? ligo!
    Mūsu pašu ciema ļaudis, līgo!
  • Irbit gulēj' ceļmalāi, Baida manu kumeliņ'!
6 Variations sur un Theme Lette 1892
7 Six Mélodies
  • Chant du Mendiant: „Faites l’aumône, bonnesgens“.
  • Berceuse: „O souris grise, apporte le sommeil“.
  • Chant du Ruisseau: „J’ai quitté les monts“.
  • „Je ne puis rire“.
  • Chant de Pêcheurs: „Mère Dvina, mère chère“.
  • Je t’aime: „Je me rappelle ton premier sourire“.
3 Humoresque 1890
4 La fête Lihgo 1889
5 3 Songs (Dziesmas)
  • Das Blatt im Buche: "Ich hab’ eine alte Muhme"
  • Schlimme Ahnung: "Flüchtig ist dein Kuss, Geliebte"
  • Zu spät: "Sie haben dich fortgetragen"
2 Mélodie et Mazurka 1889
43 3 Reminiscences 1914
53 3 Songs (Dziesmas)
  • Die Welle ("Hell strahlt die Sonne")
  • Nebeltage ("Nun die Welt trübe")
  • Lächeln ("Lächle einmal noch")
55 Berceuse in A 1921
11 3 Mélodies for Voice and Piano
  • Heimkehr: "Es wintert draussen mit aller Macht"
  • Die Fenster waren gefroren
  • Du schläfst da so ruhig und süss
13 3 Preludes 1894
15 Romance 1894
50 5 chansons d'ete (Vasaras dziesmas) 1918
16 3 Preludes 1895
2 4 Morceaux 1895
58 12 Chansons Enfantines 1921
63 Piano Sonatina in B minor 1927
52 3 Songs (Dziesmas)
  • Dünastrom, Schwarzauge
  • Wiegenlied fürs Herz ("Törichtes Herz")
  • Frühlingstage ("Kein Klagelaut jemals erkling")
66 Dargakeni
  • Amethysts (Lento)
  • Emeralds (Allegro rustico)
  • Pearls (Allegro)
  • Rubies (Agitato)
  • Diamonds (Allegro di molto)
68 8 miniatures (Astonas miniaturas) 1928
String Quartet No. 1 1885
Esquisse 1894
10 3 Preludes 1893
9 Mazurka et Valse 1892
34 Songs
35 Das Lied
61 3 Songs (Dziesmas) 1925
59 3 Songs (Dziesmas) 1923
24 Valse-Caprice 1897
Song of the Sun’s Radiance 1911
There is Still a Silent Night in My Mind 1911
23 2 Morceaux 1897
25 3 Morceaux 1897
33 Deux miniatures (Divas miniaturas) 1905
Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra 1918
57 Carmina 1927
38 3 Silhouettes 1909
41 2 Morceaux
  • Au Clair de la Lune
44 3 songs (Dziesmas) 1910
48 5 preludes de Naurena Elzas 1914
54 Variations-portraits 1920
17 3 Morceaux 1895
18 Berceuse et Étude 1895
19 2 Preludes 1895
20 4 Morceaux 1895
31 7 Lieder (Dziesmas)
  • Mans kaps (Mein Grab)
  • Mirdzas Lied: "Mondenstrahlen weben"
  • "Im Sinn liegt mir die stille Nacht"
26 3 Études 1898
30 3 Preludes 1903
40 8 Songs (Dziesmas) 1909
49 5 Latvian Folk Songs 1916
51 3 Songs (Dziesmas) 1919
56 3 Lieder (Trīs dziesmas)
  • Rozes visskaistākās
  • Laimītei
  • Laimas sveiciens
60 Le Chagrin du Pueple (Tautas bedas)
62 3 Songs (Dziesmas) 1925
Autumn Song (Rudens Dzisma)
Symphony in E minor 1886–87
Symphony No.2 1901
Tom Thumb 1908
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 (Liturģija) 1934
Liturgie de Pâques (Lieldienu liturģija) 1935

Celebration and remembrance[edit]

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.[2] 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.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Naxos profile.
  2. ^ "Gaujienas pagasts". www.gaujiena.lv. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 
  3. ^ "Balsojiet Ineses Galantes talantos par Karīnu Mazūru un Nikolu Bergmani!". www.vitoleni.lv. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 


  • Braun, Joachim and Klotiņš, Arnold. "Vītols, Jāzeps". Grove Music Online (subscription required). ed. L. Macy. Retrieved on March 8, 2007.

External links[edit]