«In the years before writing “Tala gaisma” (Distant Lights), I had often thought about writing a large-scale work for violin, especially after completing my cello concerto.
In summer 1996 Gidon Kremer asked me to write a violin concerto for the newly founded youth orchestra for the Baltic countries “Kremerata Baltica”. During this time I was reading Gidon Kremer’s book “Moments from Childhood”. The moods of this book have been a major influence on this concerto. I started writing in autumn 1996 and finished the 30-minute-work in spring the following year.
The concerto is in one long movement, with contrasting episodes and three cadenzas for the soloist. The main theme comes from silence and returns to silence, full of idealism and love, sometimes melancholic and dramatic. The first notes grow slowly, without hurry; then, the light-sad cantilena sets in. After Cadenza I, an extensive theme starts with low bass chords gradually gaining strength and intensity. With a sudden change of tempo and character the following episode begins; in it, I used a musical language which is close to Latvian folk music. Candenza II brings into the music a slight different character which disappears in an energetic tutti.
After this burst of energy, silence returns. The lyrical violin line leads to a second, dramatic episode. Cadenza III and the following aleatoric part form the centre of the concerto. The aleatoric chaos is interrupted by a robust, even agreesive waltz rhythm. In the recapitulation the musical ideas of the opening return. Although there is a sound of hurt for a second, the concerto dies away in bright sadness. Once again, the waltz sounds – now as a reflection of distant memories.
“Tala gaisma” is dedicated to Gidon Kremer, my former classmate, whom I met again through music. The concerto is a commission from the Salzburg Festival and was premiered on 10 August 1997 with Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica conducted by Saulius Sondeckis.»
– Peteris Vasks