Veteran Toronto Star music critic William Littler once wrote that Latvia was “a country that must have given birth to more composers per square mile than a Canadian would dare imagine.” The same can be said of exceptional Latvian performers.
In 1959, composers Talivaldis Kenins and Janis Cirulis met with singer/author Mariss Vetra to discuss ways of preserving and fostering their Latvian heritage while enriching the cultural life of their adopted city. They all agree it was important to provide a way for the best and the brightest Latvian classical artists from around the world to perform in Toronto in an uncompromising professional setting. With this goal in mind, they created the Toronto Latvian Concert Association.
As a subscription series with a relatively predictable capital base, the TLCA was able to invite artists beyond the reach of other Latvian cultural organizations. The TLCA takes pride in knowing it is one of the oldest classical music recital series in Canada, having organized well over 200 concerts featuring artists from across Canada, the USA, Mexico, Chile, England, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Latvia.
Internationally acclaimed opera performers Maija Kovalevska, Inese Galante, Inga Kalna and Egils Silins have all appeared in Toronto under the TLCA banner and the list of instrumentalists reads like a “who’s who” list of Latvian classical musicians. Over the years, TLCA patrons have heard such Grammy-nominated artists as violinist Sandis Steinbergs, concertmaster of KREMERata Baltica (with the RIX Quartet), Kristina Blaumane, principal cello of the London Philharmonic, and composer Peteris Vasks, who joined us when the TLCA presented the North American premiere of his violin concerto Distant Light.
Juno Award winning pianist Arthur Ozolins first performed in a TLCA concert in 1963… on his 17th birthday! It was one of his first professional recitals and he instantly became a local favorite appearing no less than 20 times as both solo recitalist and chamber musician.
While Latvians have always proudly thought of themselves as being part of mainstream European culture, fifty plus years of Soviet occupation left the country on the edge of obscurity. The TLCA worked hard to engage a broader audience to help counter that perception, offering a unique concert experience to all who are culturally aware and musically curious, wishing to hear what Latvia’s finest cultural ambassadors are doing.
Since regaining independence from the Soviet Union in May of 1991, many Latvian performers, composers and conductors have now emerged to grace the stages and podiums of the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls.
Understanding this joyous new reality, the TLCA has broadened its mandate to include the commissioning of new works by Latvian Canadian composers and supporting legacy projects that will highlight the contribution made by artists of Latvian heritage to the cultural fabric of Canada.
President, Toronto Latvian Concert Association