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Knuts and Valda Lesins papers

Identifier: IHRC1364


The papers (1924-1997) of Knuts and Valda Lesins document substantial part of their lives. Included are personal documents (1928-1997) and numerous photos (1924-1991) documenting their social activities as well as private life. Papers contain correspondence (1940-1997) - private letters, letters from officials such as book publishers, universities, etc., as well as correspondence with other Latvian exile writers (Z. Lalzda, A. Eglitis, J. Jaunsurdabins, etc.). Also included is sheet music with compositions by Knuts Lesins (1936-1982) and by other Latvian composers, and also world music masterpiecies. Additionally, papers contain literary works of Knuts Lesins (ca. 1963-1994) such as manuscripts, research papers, articles, short stories, speeches, and poems. There are also translations by Knuts Lesins, mostly of poetry (his own and written by others), and song lyrics. A large quantity of newspaper clippings feature his own articles, interviews with Lesins, articles about Knuts and Valda Lesins and their concert performances, articles related to the Lesins' friends, students and Latvian exile cultural events. There are also materials covering Knuts and Valda Lesins' social life comprised of periodicals, concert programmes, materials about the Lesins music studio, Garezers Latvian Summer High School, TV-broadcasts, reviews of the book "Wine of Eternity", Song Festivals, and Valda Lesins' concert programmes. There is one audio record in this collection containing composer Janis Kalnins' speech from November 2, 1974 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Selected books and periodicals were added to the Latvian print collection at IHRCA.


  • 1923-1997


Language of Materials

Latvian, English


Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

For further information regarding the copyright, please contact the IHRCA.


Voldemars -Orions- Knuts Lesins was a pianist, music educator, writer, critic and historian of music. He was born on March 28,1909 in St. Petersburg and lived in Russia until 1920. His family moved to Latvia. They lived in Riga for a year, and Knuts attended Riga's 2nd Elementary School, and had private piano lessons. Later, the Lesins family moved to Valmiera where Knuts went to Valmieras Gymnasium and the Music School of Valmiera. He started to write his first poems there and also began to compose music. After that he continued his education in Riga's 2nd State Gymnasium (1927-1928). He attended law as a part-time student at the University of Riga. He studied piano in the Latvian Conservatory (1927-1932) under P. Schubert and received a teacher's certificate in Music Theory and Piano from the Conservatory in 1932. He also did advanced studies in composition under Prof. P. Ivanovs and Prof. J. Cirulis (1935-1938). Lesins composded about 20 solo songs, preludes for piano, suite for violin, cello and piano. Knuts Lesins also worked as a journalist and critic of literature and music in the newspapers "Pedejais Bridis", ''Latvis", "Briva Zeme"(1929-1932). He also translated different materials related to literature while he worked for newspapers. He married singer Valda Smite in 1935. He worked as an instructor of piano, theory of music and history of music at the State Music School of Riga (1932-1944). He was an assistant director (dramatist) of the Latvian National Opera (1936-1942). During 1937 and 1938 special concerts were organized of original compositions by Knuts Lesins, featuring soloists of the State National Opera and the composer. From 1936 to 1944 he presented a series of music lectures on the State Radio. He was a commentator of musical events, operas, and concerts.From 1938 to 1941 he was an instructor of piano at the Phonology Institute of Riga. Since 1929 he published his short stories and stories in magazines devoted to literature, such as "Daugava", "Piesaule", "Burtnieks" and in other periodicals, including newspapers. He had a private piano studio in Riga (1930-1944). Lesins emigrated to Germany in 1944. He passed the Examination of the Military Control Board in Augsburg and got a diploma as a concert pianist on June 13, 1947. From 1946 to 1948 he was a concert soloist-piano in Entairtainment Group for Allied Forces in Germany and from 1948 to 1950 was a concert soloist in Latvian Refugee's Entertainment Group in Augsburg.

He arrived in the U.S. in 1950 and settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1951. Together with his wife Valda they lived in a house which they called "Putnu kalns" ("The Mountain of Birds"). In the U.S., Lesins was a professor of piano and organ at Hillcrest Academy, Fergus Falls, Minnesota (1950-1951). From 1950 to 1957 Knuts and Valda Lesins had concert tours in USA, mostly in American churches. Together with his wife Valda he founded the music studio in Minneapolis for Latvian and American children. Lesins was a piano instructor in this studio from 1950 to 1957. The studio existed for 25 years and had almost 40 students every year, among the best known were Guna Kalmite (pianist) and Juris Krafts (organist). After 1953 Lesins was editor in Latvian exile magazines such as newspapers "Cela Zmes", "Latvju Muzika". He took part in events organized by Latvian community in Minneapolis and on radio and TV programmes. His wife Valda sang several times in church services and Knuts Lesins composed songs for these occasions. He worked in Garezers (Longlake) teaching Lavian literature and history of music in Latvian Summer High School (1970-1981).

The list of books by Lesins which have been published: Story collection "Zimes tumsa"(Omens in the Dark) (Latvia-1938), literary reflections and critical reviews about music "Sejas un problemas latviesu literatura" (Problems and Faces in Latvian Music) (Latvia-1939), novel "Milestibas zimogs"(Seal of Love) (Latvia-1943), story and short story collection "Atstari" (Reflections) (Germany-1946), humor "Lietas, kas kartojas pasas" (Things That Settle by Themselves) (Germany-1948), short story "Muzibas vins"(Eternal Wine) (Germany-1949), novel "Janka Muzikants"(John the Musician) (Germany-1950), collections "Lepna sirds"(The Proud Heart) (Sweden-1952) and "Akla iela"(The Dead End Street) (Sweden-1955), "Zem svesam zvaigznem"(Under the Foreign Stars) (Germany-1956), novel "Pedejas majas"(The Last Home) (1957), lyrical and reflective poetry "Smilgas saulrieta" (Spear-grasses in the Sunset) (1962), monograph about scupltor M.Geistauts (1983), collection of short stories "Gredzens un maize" (The Ring and the Bread)(1988). Short stories of Knuts Lesins have been published in a collection "The Wine of Eternity" (1957(?)1959) translated by Ruth Spears and Haralds Kundzins. Knuts Lesins died on February 3, 2000.


5 Linear Feet


Papers (1924-1997) consist of personal documents, photos, correspondence. Included is sheet music by Knuts Lesins as well as by other Latvian and world composers, in addition to manuscripts, research papers, articles, short stories, speeches, poems and translations done by Lesins. Newspaper clippings, bulletins, newsletters, magazines and books are also included in this collection. There is one audio record.


The papers of Knuts Lesins were given to IHRC in April, 1999 by Nick Berkholtz of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • Arts Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Latvian Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Literature Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Music Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Poetry Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
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