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Mediņš, Jānislocked

  • Jēkabs Vītoliņš

(b Riga, Oct 9, 1890; d Stockholm, March 4, 1966). Latvian composer and conductor, brother of Jāzeps Mediņš. He graduated from the First Riga Musical Institute (piano, violin and cello) in 1909. From 1913 to 1915 he was a violist and conductor at the Latvian Opera in Riga, later becoming opera conductor of the Latvian National Opera (1920–28) and chief conductor of the Latvian RSO and artistic director of Latvian Radio (1928–44). He taught in the orchestration class at the Latvian State Conservatory (1921–44), where he was appointed professor in 1929; in 1932 he became head of orchestral conducting. He fled from the advancing Soviet forces in 1944 and briefly lived in Germany before settling in Stockholm in 1948.

A composer of characteristically national neo-Romantic and Impressionist tendencies, Mediņš achieved particular success in the genres of opera and ballet, symphonic music and solo song. Alongside Alfrēds Kalniņš, he was one of the first composers of opera in Latvia. His symbolic music drama Uguns un nakts (‘Fire and Night’) concerns the people’s struggle for freedom; its dramatically and powerfully drawn heroes are characterized both vocally and orchestrally. The struggle against despotism is expressed in the opera Dievi un cilvēki (‘Gods and men’), which includes some original experiments in Egyptian colouring. Sprīdītis (‘Tom Thumb’) is based on characters from folktales, and his last opera, Luteklīte (‘The Little Darling’), is for children. His Mīlas uzvara (‘Love’s Victory’, 1934) was the first Latvian ballet. After his death his manuscripts were donated to 14 libraries in Europe and North America (see Dunkele).


(selective list)


Uguns un nakts [Fire and Night] (2 ops, after J. Rainis), 1913–19, Riga, 26 May 1921, rev. as 1 op (4), Riga, 2 Feb 1924

Dievi un cilvēki [Gods and Men] (music drama, 4, after L. Paegle) 1921, Riga, 23 May 1922

Sprīdītis [Tom Thumb] (op, 1, A. Brigadere) 1925, Riga, 22 Jan 1927

Mīlas uzvara [Love's Victory] (ballet), 1934, 1935

Luteklīte [The Little Darling] (children's op, A. Ozola, 1) 1939, Riga, 21 Dec 1939



Suite no.1, 1922

Imanta, sym. sketch, 1923

Zilais kalns [The Blue Mountain], sym. sketch, 1924

Vc Conc. no.1, 1928

Pf Conc., 1932

Suite no.3 ‘Dzimtene’ [The Fatherland], 1933

Pie baznīcas [By the Church], str, 1935

Nakts etzemanes dārzā [The Night in the Garden of Gethsemane], sym. poem, 1936

Latvian Dances nos.1–6, 1956–7

3 Suites from stage works, film scores, band pieces

Chamber and solo instrumental

23 dainas [Preludes], 1921–59

Pf Trio, 1930

Sonata, vc, pf, 1945

Pf Qnt, 1946

Pf Sonata, 1946

Sonata, vn, pf, 1946

Str Qt, 1946

Sonatina, vc, pf, 1947

Sonatina, cl, pf, 1950

Suite, vc, pf, 1951

Pf Sonatina, 1954

Rhapsodie, 2 pf, 1954

Sonata, vn, pf, 1954

Sonata, accdn, 1955

Pf Trio, 1958

Sonatina, fl, pf, 1958

Sonata, ob, pf, 1960

Vocal works, incl. 8 cants., c200 songs

Principal publishers: Liesma, Rode, Universal


  • Toņi un pustoņi [Tones and semitones] (Stockholm, 1964, rev. 2/1992 incl. introduction by I. Zemzare and work-list) [autobiography]


  • I. Dunkele: ‘Ārzemju bibliotēkām nosūtītie Jāņa Mediņa skaņdarbī’ [Mediņš’s works sent to foreign libraries], Latvju mūzika, 2 (1969), 170–2
  • I. Dunkele: ‘Jāņa Mediņa nepublicētie skaņdarbi’ [Mediņš’s unpublished works], Latvju mūzika, 2 (1969), 172–3
  • V. Briede-Bulavinova: Latviešu opera (Riga, 1975), 107–86
  • V. Briede-Bulavinova: Opernoye tvorchestvo latïshskikh kompozitorov [Operas of Latvian composers] (Leningrad, 1979), 26–52