Reinis Zariņš
Music at my fingertips



20 December 2016

Rian Evans, The Guardian

Pianists who can successfully perform Olivier Messiaen’s early masterpiece, his contemplation on the significance of the birth of Jesus, are few and far between. With this performance, the Latvian Reinis Zariņš proved himself to be one. His embrace of the music’s monumentality and its intimacy was remarkable. Taking the 20-piece cycle in a single sweep and playing from memory, he riveted the attention: two hours that could easily have seemed interminable flew by, transcending time, and yet also making it stand still.

Zariņš used the St George’s acoustic to his advantage, pushing Messiaen’s extremes of volume, with bright tumult versus breathtaking pianissimo or indeed silence. He upped the contrasts in character, with wild ecstasy versus beatitude, and sharpened the sense of musical engineering – spider’s web filigree versus massive suspension bridges of sound. Zariņš’s further concern to explore the heart of the composer’s vision – composed in 1944 for the 20-year-old Yvonne Loriod – found him offering verses from both Old and New Testaments to accompany the title of each Regard – here translated as “Gaze” – with the words briefly projected by way of illumination.

But most significant was his realisation of the rainbow gradations of tonal colour, together with an inexorable progress towards the pinnacles of Regard du Fils sur le Fils, de L’Esprit de joie, Le Baiser de l’Enfant-Jésus and L’Eglise d’amour, respectively the fifth, 10th, 15th and the 20th. Messiaen’s message was that of hope: Zariņš made it so.






December 2013

The Kirckman Concert Society continues apace in presenting outstanding young talent in prestigious venues, and the very distinguished recital by the Latvian pianist Reinis Zarins at Wigmore Hall on December 4 was fully up to the standard of previous promotions. Indeed, his programme was particularly interesting and compelling, in that in the first half a succession of Bach transcriptions found individual items threaded amongst pieces by Messiaen from the Vingt regards sur l‘enfant Jésus and the contemporary Latvian composer Georgs Pelēcis (born 1947) – almost all of which had connexions with Christmastime or the New Year. The Bach-Busoni Chaconne and Mikhail Pletnev’s arrangement for solo piano of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite were the bigger items – but what was particularly impressive was Zarins’ complete tonal range and his splendid voicing throughout. This was consistent pianism of a high order, such as to make us long to hear him in a full-scale concerto.

James Palmer (


23 November 2012

Reinis Zarins is a young, London-based Latvian pianist who is beginning to establish a considerable international reputation as a recitalist, chamber musician and soloist.  He has collaborated on a number of occasions with Boulez and Ensemble Intercontemporain so he has a keen interest in the contemporary piano repertoire.  He has an absolutely dazzling technique and it was fully on display for this recital, which covered an amazing array of musical styles and genres.

He opened the recital with Mozart’s C minor Fantasia, which was composed in Vienna in 1785 and was originally published as a preface to the C minor sonata K457.  Zarins captured well the free improvisatory feel of the piece while at the same time displaying some elegant classical phrasing.  The transition into D major was played with real warmth and charm with Zarins coaxing some lovely colours from the piano.  Zarins responded flexibly and spontaneously to the profusion of freewheeling musical ideas that runs through the piece and succeeded in developing the material in an organic and holistic way.

The playing seemed to go up a gear with the three Debussy preludes.  The opening of ‘La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin’ was simple and unaffected and Zarins captured some subtle and evocative half lights, particularly towards the end.  ‘Feux d’Artifice’ was a tour de force, full of imaginative textures and sonorities, with the technical difficulties handled with infinite ease.  Zarins deployed a soft-grained, velvety tone for ‘La Cathedral Engloutie’ and succeeded in producing some gorgeous tone painting.

The first half of the concert concluded with Stravinsky’s ‘Three Dances from Petrushka’ which the composer wrote for Rubinstein in 1921.  While Debussy was keen to turn the piano into an instrument without hammers, Stravinsky was heading in the opposite direction, exploring the percussive possibilities of the instrument.  The opening ‘Russian Dance’ was very good indeed with Zarins keeping the dense piano textures light and deploying an impressive range of textures and dynamics.  The rhythms were nicely pointed and he used the full resources of the concert grand to bring out the full range of orchestral sonorities and the balletic nature of the score.  The second movement ‘In Petruska’s Cell’ was vividly characterised with Zarins relishing the wild dramatic elements and depicting beautifully the puppet’s self-pity.  The superhuman difficulties of the piece appeared almost incidental with Zarins focusing on creating a collection of vivid musical effects.  In ‘The Shrovetide Fair’ Zarins was acutely responsive to the shifting scenes and rapidly changing rhythms and dealt with the treacherous technical difficulties with almost ridiculous ease.  He has committed this piece to disc and if the recording is anything like this live performance it would be worth getting it for that alone.

Bloch’s Four Circus Pieces were written in 1922, the year after the Petrushka dances, and are witty depictions of various circus acts.  It opens with ‘The Two Burlington Brothers’, which is essentially an act made up of two old fashioned eccentrics.  Zarins was rhythmically incisive and brought out the sense of parody, poking fun through the various oom-pahs in the piece.  ‘The Clown’ is dedicated to Charlie Chaplin and focuses on the sadness beneath the comic exterior.  Some nicely judged layering by Zarins made the point beautifully.  ‘The Homeliest Woman’ is a caricature of a Chopin waltz which Zarins delivered as a vaudeville sketch.  The final ‘Dialogue and Dance of the Heavyweight and the Dwarf’ was dispatched with wit and brio.

The concert concluded with Schumann’s great C major Fantasie.  Zarins brilliantly captured the romantic ardour of the opening movement, the mercurial mood swings and flights of fancy.  There was some lovely lyrical and tender playing in some of the quieter moments.  The start of the second movement sounded a little jaded but Zarins soon got into his stride, navigating his way through the dotted and cross rhythms.  The famous leaps in the coda were played at breakneck speed in an impressive technical display but I would have preferred a slightly more restrained approach.  The slow movement was for me the highlight of the entire concert and it was breathtakingly beautiful.  Zarins succeeded in sustaining the long expressive lines in a way which really drew the audience in and produced some rich, dreamy sounds.  Absolutely gorgeous playing.

Zarins played three encores:  some evocative Debussy, a slow waltz by Prokofiev and Liszt’s fearsomely difficult eighth transcendental study, ‘Wilde Jagd’.  This latter was an exciting and exuberant end to an evening of superb music making.

Robert Beattie (Seen and Heard International)

Michael Dervan (Irish Times, May 9, 2012):

Reinis Zarins contrasted Bach (two parts of The Art of Fugue) with Messiaen’s Regard du Fils sur le Fils and Par Lui tout a été fait, taking full ownership of the two composer’s styles in a way that was totally absorbing. It was a high-contrast strategy that stood out for both its daring and success.

Michael Church (International Piano Magazine Nov/Dec 2010):

‘Electrifying’ is an over-used word, but as a description of the way Reinis Zarins played the first four bars of Beethoven’s ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata it really is the mot juste. He took the opening movement very fast, but it was all under cool intellectual control, and built to its climaxes with unerring judgement. The Scherzo was riveting, the Adagio had noble plangency. (..) He brought sympathetic authority to Schubert’s oddly uningratiating Drei Klavierstucke D946, and a distinctively Baltic palette to Peteris Vasks’s austere Autumn Music from ‘The Seasons’. Zarins (..) is definitely a man to watch.

‘Pastiche, politics, and all that jazz’ – Royal Academy of Music students, 12 September 2010

(..)The solo Stravinsky items were performed by pianist Reinis Zariņš. Even the Three Easy Pieces are far from ‘easy’, especially in musical terms. Stravinsky loves to set straps and to defy expectations. His polemical dryness is a good deal of the story, but not the whole tale. There are moments of tenderness, for instance in the adorable Tango. (I recall playing it once as an encore, which even certain audience members of conservative bent enjoyed – until I informed them it was by Stravinsky.) But such moments must never, ever be milked, no more than in The Rake’s Progress; Zariņš had their measure. Motor rhythms not unlike those of Prokofiev’s seventh piano sonata, invaded the Piano-Rag-Music to thrilling effect. Ragtime similarly impressed: clear, yet never merely dry. Such chips from the master’s workbench are akin, say, to Beethoven’s Bagatelles; in both cases, they will only shine as gems in good performance.

All in all, then, a most enjoyable performance and an excellent showcase for the RAM. It was a pity, though, that the performers’ names were not included upon the sheet with texts and translations. I had to visit the Royal Academy’s website to find them.