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Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, Pēteris Vasks: 'Vēstījums'

As we near the year's end, #NowPlaying recommends songs that slipped through the cracks, but remain in our headphones.

Latvia's best known contemporary composer, Pēteris Vasks, likes to set up battles between light and dark forces. And in the beautifully epic Vēstījums, which can be translated as "Tidings," the conflict rises to a ferocious level. Written in 1982, when Latvia was still under Soviet rule, the music is scored for two pianos, strings and percussion, and acts as a kind of warning from the natural world. The music begins in calm repose, then bursts open into an ecstatic sunrise. Dark clouds form and three-quarters in, the piece explodes in pounding piano clusters, clangorous bells and swirling strings that can only be described as the symphonic equivalent to a head rush. The composer commented, "The cosmos rejoices. We, the insane, will be lost but the miracle of the world will remain."

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.