Solo Songs, 1900–1949, by Composer Alfrēds Kalniņš (1879–1951)
Alfrēds Kalniņš was a precociously talented musician, a composer of works in diverse genres and a great Latvian cultural activist. However, he is best known for his roughly 250 solo songs composed from 1900 to 1949, which have been described as giving an acute mirror of the Latvian psychological portrait.
Kalniņš was born into a poor rural family near Cēsis in Vidzeme and went on to study organ playing and composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatorium. He was both a man of the world, a friend of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and other. Free of sentiment and melodrama, his songs have been said to be music for people who know how to listen, evoking moods, episodes, historical scenes and paintings.
In his songs, melody did not play a dominant role. Rather, he drew on a myriad of psychological approaches and stylistic harmonies, which has led to comparisons between his works and those of Richard Strauss and Claude Debussy.
The archives of national broadcaster Latvijas Radio include recordings of Kalniņš’ songs by outstanding singers from various periods, including Mirdza Kalniņa (1932−2005), Maija Krīgena (1939), Jānis Sproģis (1944) and Kārlis Zariņš (1930−2015), as well as a legendary rendition of “I Wonder” (Brīnos es) by Jānis Zābers (1935−1973). The poets whose works he put to music included Aspazija (1865−1943), Fricis Bārda (1880−1919), Kārlis Skalbe (1879−1945) and Rainis (1865−1929).
In addition to his solo songs, Kalniņš also composed symphonic works, piano pieces, ballet score, cantatas, and arranged folk songs and choir music. He also wrote the score for one of the first important operas in the Latvian language, “Baņuta” (1918, premiere 1920), followed by another opera “The Islanders” (Salinieki), second redaction under the title “The Homeland’s Awakening” (Dzimtenes atmoda). In 1926 he was the Head Conductor for the VI All Latvian Song Celebration. He was also a highly regarded church organist and educator, becoming rector of the Latvian State Music Academy at the end of his life.
In his day, Kalniņš headed the Central Library of Music Scores, and the Music Reading Room at the current National Library of Latvia is named in his honour. The music secondary school in Cēsis is also named after him.
Orests Silabriedis on Alfrēds Kalniņs in the Latvian Culture Canon, 2008. (in Latvian)
Composer’s Alfrēds Kalniņš Composition Evening in the Rīga Latvian Society House on 27 February 1907. National Library of Latvia, Collection of Small Prints. (in Latvian and Russian)
II. Song Day dedicated to works of Alfrēds Kalniņš. 29 February 1920. National Library of Latvia, Collection of Small Prints. (in Latvian)
Commemoration concert dedicated to composer's Alfrēds Kalniņš 25 years of professional activity on 27 September 1926. National Library of Latvia, Collection of Small Prints. (in Latvian)
VI Concert of the Latvian compositions series dedicated to works of Alfrēds Kalniņš. 15 March 1934. National Library of Latvia, Collection of Small Prints. (in Latvian)
Orests Silabriedis on Alfrēds Kalniņš in the Latvian Culture Canon, 2008.
Liene Cebere on Alfrēds Kalniņš in the Latvian Culture Canon, 2019.
Bibliographic list with music score editions and separate printed sheets of Alfrēds Kalniņš' music. National Library of Latvia, Collection of Alfrēds Kalniņš Music Reading Room, 2019.
Alfrēds Kalniņš: [Otrā pasaules kara laikā sarakstītās solodziesmas]. (2011). No: Arnolda Klotiņa redakcija, teksts Ilma Grauzdiņa. Mūzika okupācijā: Latvijas mūzikas dzīve un jaunrade, 1940-1945 (540. lpp.). Rīga: LU Literatūras, folkloras un mākslas institūts.
Brehmane-Štengele, Milda. (1986). Laime (131.-132. lpp). Rīga: Liesma.
Kalniņš, Alfrēds. ([19–]). Alfrēds Kalniņš [skaņuplate]. Izpilda Ērika Tipaine, Druvis Kriķis, Leonarda Daine u.c. Rīga: Melodija. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Audiovizuālais krājums, F-2/384.
Kalniņš, Alfrēds. (1970). Solo dziesmas [skaņuplate]. Izpilda Jānis Zābers, Hermanis Brauns. Rīga: Мелодия. Latvijas Nacionālās bibliotēkas Audiovizuālais krājums, F-2/1493.
Kļaviņa, Velga (sast.), Janevica, Astra (sast.). (1980). Latviešu mūzikas literatūra (153.-157. lpp.). Rīga: Zvaigzne.
Lesiņš, Knuts. (1939). Problemas un sejas latviešu muzikā (214.-224. lpp.). Rīga: Gulbis.
Lesiņš, Knuts. (2008). Alfrēds Kalniņš. No: Knuts Lesiņš, literāts un mūziķis (101.-118. lpp.). Rīga: Korporācija „Talavija”.
Miķelsone, Anita. (2005). Latviešu mūzikas literatūras tēmas [notis] (20. lpp.). Rīga: Musica Baltica.
Poruks, Jēkabs. (1963). Ciemošanās: atmiņas par cilvēkiem, vietām un notikumiem (54.-56. lpp.). Stokholma: Daugava.
Torgāns, Jānis. (2010). Latviešu mūzikas virsotnes: palīglīdzeklis mūzikas vidusskolām latviešu mūzikas literatūras kursā (101.-105. lpp.). Rīga: Zinātne.
Vītoliņš, Jēkabs. (1968). Alfrēds Kalniņš: monogrāfisks apcerējums. Rīga: Liesma.