The year 1950 draws a black line in the composer’s life. At the age of twelve, her niece Laila Reinvalde – Lailiņa, who was very close to Lūcija Garūta, dies of a heart disease.
Already on the March 4 of 1950, the composer receives a letter from Alfred Kalniņš, in which he expresses his deepest condolences regarding the death of his niece. It is he who encourages Garūtas to create a piece in memory of Lailiņa. And in 1950, the second part of the Piano Concerto “In memoriam” is created. In a sense, it is significant that only one more was composed that year composition – the song “Apinītis”.
At the time when the Piano Concerto was being composed, Garūtas found strength and comfort in folk songs much more often than before. In 1951, the Variations on the theme of the folk song “Arājiņi, ecētāti” and Seven Folk Songs for piano, dedicated to the memory of Lailiņa, were also composed. Her music is characterized by depth and simplicity, yet in moments of dramatic climaxes echoes of the passionately exalted expression of the early piano works can still be heard. When the entire cycle of the Piano Concerto is written, it must first be submitted for evaluation to the board of the Latvian Union of Soviet Composers. Initially, the board is disapproving of the Piano Concerto, because it cultivates subjectively tragic feelings that are unnecessary for anyone, so the audience does not need it. However, despite the criticism, Garūta continues his work, working on the instrumentation. Reviewing the Piano Concerto in the Composers’ Union for the second time – on September 18, 1955, an opinion was received that in fact this work can be considered one of the most successfully written Latvian Soviet piano concertos.
Already on September 29, 1955, the Piano Concerto was successfully premiered on the radio broadcast – it was played by pianist Hermanis Brauns and the Radio Committee Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Arvīds Jansons. First part of the concert Lento, pesante. Allegro sostenuto is full of drama, despair and at the same time fighting spirit. A brighter reflection is brought by the side party – as memories of the cheerful, gentle character of Lailiņa. Interwoven with sadness Part Two In memoriam. Grave is a double variation on Latvian funeral songs “Kam, liepiņa, tu nolūzi” (outer parts of the three-part form) and “Jūdziet sirmus, jūdziet raudus” (middle part). And the third part in Maestoso. Allegretto, scherzando written in rondo sonata form. Although the intonation material and tragedy of the 1st movement are reflected in the soloist’s cadenza, the finale of the Piano Concerto in general proves the will to live and the strength of memories. There is a major, playful mood here, and music material born years ago is heard, which was born in a bright moment, when little Lailiņa brought the first spring flowers.”
Premiere on Latvian radio 29.09.1955 – Hermanis Brauns, Latvian Radio Orchestra, conductor Arvīds Jansons
First performance in the concert hall in February 1956 in the Great Guild – Hermanis Braun, conductor Leonids Vigners
In 2017, the National Record Company “Skani” releases the album “Lūcija Garūta. Klaviermūzika” by the outstanding Latvian pianist Reiņas Zariņš, the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and the conductor Atvaras Lakstīgalas.”The album was released in the series “Latvijas koponisti”” and includes Concert for piano and orchestra, “Prelīdes”, “Meditation”, “Variations on the Latvian folk song Karavīri bēdājas” and “Lellītes aju ziesmiņa”.
The first premiere of the Piano Concerto outside Lavia took place at the ‘Opéra Grand Avignon’ in Avignon, France, on October 27, 2023.