Good evening, Mr Minister, Mr Rector, musicians, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening, Latvians, because music and Latvians have always gone together,
It was hundred years ago today, on 11 January, that the concert inaugurating the Latvian Conservatoire was performed in the former building of Riga Alexander Gymnasium designed by the first Latvian architect Jānis Baumanis.
It was January. War of Independence was not over yet. Latgale was still fighting against enemy for some of its parts. Latvia had regained the control over Daugavpils only a week earlier and Latvian army was making headway. At the same time, Conservatoire had its first concert on 11 January. This shows that the provisional government considered the founding of conservatoire, nowadays the academy, just as crucial for the state of Latvia as today’s government considers universities and this conservatoire, nowadays the Latvian Academy of Music, a vital element of Latvia.
Back then, nobody was concerned with economic benefits of culture, what culture would give the economy. Back then, everyone realised that Latvians are a nation with culture and Latvia as a state is based on nation with culture. If we consider ourselves a nation with culture, we are a nation that embraces and promotes art, music, human sciences and social science. Nation with culture has special universities and research institutes for culture. And that is what the Academy as we know it today has been doing for the past hundred years.
Jāzeps Vītols, the first rector of Latvian Conservatoire who served in this position many years, was key to success of the conservatoire. His personality, his genius that shined through Latvian music was so enormous that no foreign power that ruled Latvia later could erase his name from our nation’s collective memory.
Hundred years ago, different ideas about the mission of the Latvian music conservatoire were offered. Some suggested it should ‘produce talent’. However, Rector Jāzeps Vītols dismissed this idea and claimed, ‘Latvian state must first reach a musical maturity to be allowed to compete internationally, for its voice to ring out in this global concert’.
Today, when we have many world-renowned singers, composers, conductors and choirs, we can safely say to Jāzeps Vītols: ‘We have accomplished this task’. Excellence of Latvian musicians have paved their way into world’s most coveted concert bills, our musicians are a part of this global-level concert. They bring Latvia’s name, our state’s name and our nation’s name to the world.
We have to be grateful to the academic staff for that, everyone who has graduated from Latvian Academy of Music, or Conservatoire as it was called before, everyone who has devoted their life to music and are ready to share their talent to make the lives of others brighter.
I would like to wish the Latvian Academy of Music future success, inspiration and, more importantly, creative freedom for creating new music.
May the next century give us many talented and successful musicians.
God bless Latvia!