Research on the history of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra
13 April, 2021

Research on the history of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra

A project initiated by the Uniting History Foundation has been concluded, where we collaborated with researchers from Liepāja University, Professor Ilze Valce and Doctor of Arts Vēsma Lēvalde, to study the history of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and professional music in Liepāja. The study covers a broad period – from the second half of the 18th century to today.

The aim of the study we initiated was to learn about the multi-cultural aspect of performing arts in the pre- and post-war period in Liepāja and to summarize key facts of the history of the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra. The study is especially significant because previous research had only covered fragments of cultural life in Liepāja, materials were not aggregated in one place, and they could be considered contradictory.

The study examined the multi-national and rich cultural environment of the town, its cultural sites, and also involved research on performers whose life was connected with Liepāja.

Executive Director of the Uniting History Foundation, Elina Sklar: “The idea began with the intent of our Foundation to bring the brilliant Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra to Liepāja in 2021. For a period in the history of the collective, it was conducted by the internationally acclaimed Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons, and his family history and the story of his parents meeting was closely connected to Liepāja and the Liepāja opera. While diving into the music life of our neighboring country and our own, the Foundation got the idea to gather information about the history of the life surrounding symphony music in the town of Liepāja.”

In order for a broader public to learn about the findings of the study, we have created modern educational video:

The study reveals the course of professional cultural life in Liepāja at the beginning of the twentieth century, when both performing arts and music were rich in high quality events. Before World War II, the Liepāja City Drama and Opera Theater was active, staging dramatic shows and operas, and also employed a symphony orchestra.

One of the most characteristic qualities of performing arts in Liepāja was its multi-cultural nature – musicians of various ethnicities came together here, and works by the most prominent European authors were featured in repertoires alongside those of Latvian authors. World War II tragically affected the fates of many, including performing artists. There were many musicians, students of the People’s Conservatory, actors, and patrons of arts among the exiled, convicted and murdered.

Documents, photographs and other evidence was found on a broad spectrum both in terms of geography and topics. The study uses state, institutional and private archive materials, which are compared to previously published studies and materials in periodicals, in order to discover new facts and clarify ones already known about music life in Liepāja in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Foundation expresses its gratitude to the authors of the project, researchers of Liepāja University, Professor Ilze Valce and Doctor of Arts Vēsma Lēvalde  

We also thank our partners for their cooperation: Liepāja University, Liepāja Symphony Orchestra, and Liepāja Concert Hall Great Amber.

We hope that the contemporary video format will help the young citizens of Liepāja and music enthusiasts see the history of music in Liepāja in a new light!