Composers and Authors /

Kalniņš, Aldonis (1928)

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''What does the folk song mean to me? ... It was deep in Soviet times, I was living in my own part of the country, and did not really think much about folk song as such, but then everything began with fieldwork expeditions. I began to like those people, and the songs themselves. Sometimes I would put one down in front of me, and it seemed that the melody was laughing in my face and saying – well, what are you going to do with me? But I was satisfied by this work. I realised that I belong to my people, and I want to express my regard for these people, this land, and if I can make a folk song light up, then to me that is an honour and a satisfaction.''


Aldonis Kalniņš was born on 26 February, 1928, in the Braki house in Užava in the Ventspils region. He studied composition first with Pēteris Barisons, and in 1954 he graduated from the composition class of Valentīns Utkins at the Latvian State Conservatory. He taught at the Jelgava Music College (1954–1957) and at the Latvian State Conservatory, where he took over Professor Lūcija Garūta’s harmony course for external students of choir conducting (until 1965). For many years (1959–1990) he was the music editor of the publishing company Liesma. For his significant work, particularly in the field of Latvian choral music, he has received many awards, including the honorary title Distinguished Artist of the Latvian SSR (1972), and, after Latvian independence, the Order of Three Stars (2002).

Aldonis Kalniņš’s creative work is closely involved with folk songs, including their collection and reworking. Lyricism, with a heartfelt yet tranquil perception, developed with the refined hand of one who understands choral music, are characteristics which are primarily associated with the composer. Arrangements of Latvian folksongs have an important place in his output: with them Kalniņš creates portraits, compositions in pastoral mood, as well as lively scenes from social life, all united by the link with the traditions of Emilis Melngailis and the new folklore wave in Latvian music in the 1960s. The choral songs of Aldonis Kalniņš have been performed at many Latvian song festivals, particularly the song Latgalē (In Latgale) (for women’s choir) with text by Skaidrīte Kaldupe.

Kalniņš is also capable of dramatic output, which is revealed more in his oratorios. Latvian musicologists have already noted a link between his symphonic works and the scores of Alfrēds Kalniņš and Pēteris Barisons (for example, Ludvigs Kārkliņš). While continuing to produce choral music, Aldonis Kalniņš has written many fine children’s songs.

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