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Vestard Shimkus CD


Latvia has many talented musicians nevertheless Vestard Shimkus excels among the young pianists more than anybody else.

His performance attracts with the strength of his personality and a unique, individual way of thinking. His virtuosity echoes the golden age of pianism - the age when Liszt and later Busoni, Rachmaninov, Horowitz reigned on the stage. Virtuosity is not an end in itself for Vestard Shimkus. He finds a deeper essence in it - a virtuoso for him is a knight with high ideals. But the most important thing is that Shimkus' performance radiates the charm of a great talent.

Musicians of such talent are born rarely. Vestard Shimkus develops very rapidly. Tomorrow he will already be different … And sometime in the future we will proudly say: “We heard him when he was young!”

Olga Petersone

1. Chaconne from Partita No.2 for violin solo in d minor, BWV 1004

2. Scherzo No.4 in E major, op.54
3. Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, op. 61

4. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca in E major

5. Réminiscences de Don Juan

6. Wedding March Variations from “A Midsummer Night's Dream”

It was already a couple of years ago when dreaming about my first solo disc I together with my producer Inna Davidova started discussing its possible content. It was not an easy task to solve as I, like many others, faced the well-known problem - how to balance my own artistic wishes with what most of the listeners expect from the artist. I remember that we discussed various programmes starting with an album of monumental compositions up to romantic piano miniatures demanding virtuosity of performance.

At last at the end of June when I had to confirm the final version of the programme I decided to follow some basic assumptions. As I consider myself to be an incurable romantic the programme might be romantically tended as well. As I need contrasts both in life and in art they should be represented also in this programme. I wanted to play music that is close to my heart, but at the same time the album should have one uniting idea, style or trend.

Having revised my repertoire I decided to choose compositions in which romanticised fantasies prevail. Hence, also the title of the disc.

The album opens with Johann Sebastian Bach's Chaconne from 2nd partita for violin solo in d minor, its grandiose texture reminding of pillars. Ferrucio Busoni has produced an impressive piano transcription of it. I love this piece as I am fascinated by the integrity it possesses, combining the magical antiquity of Bach's music with Busoni's vastness and fervour, characterizing the ultra-romanticists of the beginning of the 20th century, and pronounced in a unique, as if orchestrated piano texture. In my interpretation I tried to find a balance between Bach and Busoni making it sound as if created of one matter without singling out the melodious features of Bach and the texture of Busoni.

The existential introduction is followed by music that is diametrically opposite. First of all it is Scherzo No 4 by Frederic Chopin, light, bright, glimmering in the sunshine and clear-cut in its form. It is music that is delightful to ear and gives one pleasure to play due to its purposeful development of the theme, its true love of life and the varied piano texture. It is followed by Polonaise-Fantaisie, a unique composition as to its form not only in Chopin's heritage, but in the whole piano literature as such. It is like an improvised panoramic view of a dream or trance in which now and then the rhythmical motif of polonaise is heard as if from a distance. Light haze of sadness embraces it at the beginning, but it gains strength and results in a powerful bright culmination.

Franz Liszt's Sonetto del Petrarca 104 is permeated by nostalgic peace, only occasionally disturbed by the memories of the storms in the past. This composition has been in my repertoire already for eight years (the other compositions I have acquired relatively recently) and therefore my interpretation of it has changed from excessively passionate and raving (“juvenile”) to more melodiously temperate. That is the way it sounds in this album, it is like reading an old, dust covered, but valuable and clever book.

And then a contrast - like falling into a bear's den - the “infinite”, dizzying, Liszt's Reminiscences on the themes of Don Juan by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Technically it is so complicated that it gives you creeps As to the form and meaning it carries I believe this to be the most finished of Liszt's compositions among all of his paraphrases and transcriptions. It is likely that when playing it, no great skill is required to produce loud music at a quick tempo, thus turning it into senseless and formless chaos of sounds. I tried to bring out the subtlety and aristocratic nobleness of Mozart (of course, where the music requires it) and simultaneously without hushing down (sooner emphasizing) the piano pyrotechnics of Liszt and other, worthy of Hollywood, flashy effects. I tried to find a balance and proportion between these two while retaining the simple and elegant clarity of Mozart's thought in the often complicated Liszt's texture.

The album's concluding piece is a similar, only slightly more humorous in tone, composition by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartoldi. It is his famous Wedding March in the transcription of Vladimir Horowitz, a composition for which there is no score. Horowitz himself performed it quite often as an encore piece at his concerts, but he never put down a single note of it on paper. After Horowitz passed away several talented pianists (Valery Kuleshov and Arkady Volodoss among them) learned the March from hearing, when listening to its recording and trying to repeat it on the piano and put down at least a part of the several thousands of notes. Some time ago, even for an unknown reason to myself, I also saw it as a challenge to my absolute pitch and as the composition had been of interest to me for quite a while I set to work. In a couple of days I could play it “note for note”. Thus I decided to conclude the album of large and fairly extensive compositions with this small and uplifting piece, to provoke a smile, so to say.

The album was recorded in three days at the end of July and the beginning of August 2003, in the 1st Studio of the Latvian Radio. I believe that nothing presents greater difficulties to a pianist, at least for me, than recording in a studio. There is one principle I try to follow - not to pretend to be better than I am, and therefore I do my recordings without editing and mixing. Utmost concentration is needed for the performance to be emotionally saturated and technically impeccable since the moment the red light is on in the studio, and to play in a way that nothing is edited afterwards demands all my spiritual and physical strength, the whole of me.

I am happy that everything turned out the way I had hoped. >From the bottom of my heart I may say that today I would hardly do it better. At the same time I am conscious that I am changing, and therefore my attitude towards the compositions included in this album, and music on the whole, might be different after some time. I would not like to stop at the level that has been reached. In this album you may hear what my interpretation of music was in the summer of 2003.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Mum and Dad, my little sister and my teachers - Ruta Ðvinka, Ligita Muiþarâja, the late Teofils Biíis, Sergey Osokin, Daniel Pollack, my sponsors and all and everybody who have supported me, as well as Inna Davidova and Modris Bçrziòð for their invaluable and positive contribution in producing the album.

A special word of thanks goes to the pianist, professor Dmitry Bashkirov for his inspiring advice on interpretation without which all the recorded compositions would have sounded differently…

Vestard Shimkus

Vestard Shimkus has a beauty of tone, a lot of varied colours and an excellent technique. A great talent!

Daniel Pollack, a piano professor, USA


Vestard Shimkus is a PHENOMENON! He has his own personality, self-confidence and technical brilliance. Some people talk about the end of the age of classical music but when you hear Shimkus' performance, you can be quite sure that classical music is well.

Paavo Jarvi, the chief conductor of
the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra, February 2003

The CD is available at all concerts of the Herman Braun Foundation and at the Foundation's office (Riga, Jekaba street, 3), or can be booked.

Booking phone number: + 371 7205444
Fax : + 371 7205447
Mobile phone: + 371 6015035
E-mail: hbf@hbf.lv

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