Kalniņš has written hundreds of musical pieces: symphonies, operas, rock songs, movie and theater music, including the soundtrack for the 1973 movie Pūt, vējiņi (Blow, wind, blow).
Though not well-known among Western audiences, Imants Kalniņš is widely celebrated in Latvia and across the former Soviet space. His music has merited its own festival, Imantdienas, widely popular in the Soviet times and therefore banned, continuing after the restoration of independence. In the eyes of the public, arguably the most notable are his rock songs, played and sung by an array of famous bands, including Pērkons, Menuets, Autobuss Debesīs and the composer's own band Turaidas Roze.
The composer's latest public pieces are Santakrusa and the Seventh Symphony, written in 2015.
The composer's son, musician and singer Marts Kristiāns Kalniņš describes his father's art with the word truthfulness: “No fear of looking at music as a way of artistic expression of truth and talking about it. We are aware that the cultural heritage is huge. It seems to me that it is the greatest value that our society and our country have gained from this. The truth is felt in every pore of music material”.
Sveicu Imantu Kalniņu 80 gadu jubilejā! Jūsu mūzika ir kopā ar latviešiem kā ikdienas solī, tā svētkos. Jūsu devums latviešu mūzikas un kultūras pasaulei mūža garumā ir neatsverams. Vēlu Jums izturību un veselību šajā laikā, lai jau drīz mūs atkal varat priecēt Imantdienās Cēsīs!— Egils Levits (@valstsgriba) May 26, 2021
To honor Kalniņš on his 80th birthday, Latvian Television has produced a musical broadcast Imanta Kalniņa Svētku diena that will be streamed on LTV1 on May 26, 21:10.