Imants Kalniņš Bookmark and Share


26 May 1941

Born in Riga, Latvia, Kalniņš studied classical and choral music at the conservatory. From 1962 he wrote and recorded several classic works amongst which the start of symfony – cycle (nr1 in 1964, nr2 in 1965 and nr 3 in 1968). In 1967 he released a work called 'October-Oratorio' based on Russian poetry from the revolutionary period. During this period however he also came in contact with modern rock ‘n roll and founded the first Latvian rockband 2xBBM (summarized from Bizbizmārītes and Bigbīta disciples) in 1969. Entering the Liepaja Amber music festival in 1970 they won first prize. The repertoire consisted of translated Beatles material and compositions by Kalniņš himself. Performing and recording was hard however due to Latvia being under Soviet rule. After a few years, during which they performed about 30 concerts, the group was disbanded from Soviet side due to, as the official pretext says, "financial discipline violations". In response, Kalniņš set himself in writing his ‘Symfony 4’ which is considered the first rock/classical work in the USSR. But again government officials tried to intervene due to the fact Kalniņš used texts from American beat poet/writer named Kelly Cherry in the final movement. He was forced to rewrite the movement purely instrumentally and to suppress any mention of its true origin. It was not until 1998 or so that the original version was finally premiered as Kalniņš intended it (which was also released on cd).

In 1973 he contributed to the soundtrack of the movie 'Pūt, vējiņ'i ('Blow ye wind') based on an ancient folk tale and song. Although harmless at first glance (for the officials) the music and movie were in fact a homage to Lithuania. Meanwhile Kalniņš kept composing for pop and rock bands like the band Menuets (Latvian for 'minuet'). Also a folk festival was organised around Kalniņš called 'Imantdienas' ('The Days of Imants'). The festival was organised of and on but returned to stay in 1995.

During the eighties the climate defrosted a bit and he was able to openly write the rock oratorio 'Kā jūra, kā zeme, kā debess' ('Like the sea, like the earth, like the sky') together with Juris Kulakovs and Juris Sējāns. The oratorio was the first thing played by the band Pērkons (Thunder) for the general public. With it Kalniņš returned to rock and roll once more. He wrote many new songs for Pērkons, and these same songs led him to start his own band, Turaidas roze (The rose of Turaida). However, the band never gained the recognition and adoration that Menuets and Pērkons did.

During the third awakening of the Latvian people, when Latvia regained independence, Kalniņš took part actively in the Tautas Fronte (Popular Front) political organization, which played an important part in ending Latvia's occupation by the USSR. In the mid-nineties, Kalniņš started to collaborate with singer/songwriter Ainars Mielavs. Their first album ‘Par lietām, kas tā ar' nekad nepāriet’ ('About things that never truly go away')became a great success, getting high critical acclaim and receiving the Grand Music Award '97. The cooperating with Mielavs continued with ‘Es redzēju sapnī’ ('I Saw in a dream') (1998) and ‘I Love You’ (1999). In 2000 the soundtrack of the movie 'Pūt, vējiņi' was re-recorded by the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra. Kalniņš also composed the song 'Pilsētā, kurā piedzimst vējš' ('In the city where the wind is born'), the anthem of Liepāja. He was also policially active as a member of the party Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK

Kalniņš is the father of actress Rēzija Kalniņa and singer Marts Kristians Kalniņš who has his own band called Autobuss Debesīs (recording since 1998). In 2006 Marts' band recorded an album with his fathers songs.

On the web:

- Imants hasn't got a website but his recordcompany has some info:

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Mikis Theodorakis (Greece)

What do we think:

DB: Kalniņš is on a lonely hight if you ask Latvian people. His status as treasurer of the Latvian culturel is undoubtfully very high and some even say that without the Latvian pop/rock music scene wouldn't be what it is today. His constant efforts to follow his artistic heart in frustation of the Soviet regime were aimable. We even saw an orginal copy of his 'Symfony 4' on LP on display in the Riga Museum of the Occupation were it was an example of how Latvian culture survived at that time. We don't know his classical work but his more porpular output with Mielavs since 1998 is of high quality as far as we heard it. For reference to what the fourth symphony sounds like? Think an undiscovered work in the tradition of Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells', it's just a matter of time before the progrock fans dive onto this one.

PR: In the introduction text and DOUBLE BASS's comment, you can read all about Imants Kalniņš' importance for Latvian music. Apart from that, he composes very beautiful songs. He composes his songs, but usually the lyrics are written by others. And Imants never sings - he always invites other singers to perform his songs. This results in very intimate, folk based albums of high quality. It is definitely no wonder why every Latvian music shop has a great collection of Kalniņš' cd's in store. If you are looking for an introduction to Latvian pop music, this is one of the artists to start with!


♪♪♪♪♪ - Simfonija 4 (Rock symphony) - 1973

♪♪♪♪ - Par lietām, kuras tā ar nekad nepāriet - 1997

♪♪♪♪♪ - 4.Simfonija - 1998

♪♪♪ - Jaunākās Dziesmas - 2007

Further listening (selected works):

Symphony No. 5  - 1979; Smilšu rausis (dziesmas bērniem dzied Zane Gudrā)  - 1995; Pilsētā, kurā piedzimst v ējš - 1995; Es redzēju sapnī - 1998; I love you - 1999; Pūt, Vējiņi! (2000); Dziesmu izlase - 2001; Pirmās dziesmas - 2004; Otrās dziesmas - 2005; Trešās dziesmas  - 2006;

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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