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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



BARGAIN OF THE MONTH

Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (born 1928)
Symphony No. 7 Angel of Light (1994)
Angels and Visitations (1978)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Hannu Koivula
Recorded 6-7 April 2001, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow
NAXOS 8.555814 [56.02]



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Rautavaara is one of the most imaginative and distinctive of living composers. His range is exceptionally wide: the distinguished Finnish musicologist Kimmo Korhonen has described him as 'at once romantic and intellectual, mystical and constructivist'. His creative life has developed through a great many stages stylistically, allowing to include different elements and features within individual works. In this sense he is a true 'post-modernist' not restricted to a narrowly-defined expressive or technical approach. As he has matured so this process has gained in significance; certainly since the 1970s Rautavaara has consciously been creating a synthesis of various stylistic influences.

Rautavaara's has composed prolifically over a period of more than forty years, and his versatile output contains several operas, seven symphonies and other orchestral works, concertos, chamber music, piano music and vocal music. He has been a major figure in Finnish musical life since the 1950s, when he received the personal support of Sibelius. With the wider performance of his music, Rautavaara has been steadily gaining in international recognition, particularly during the past decade.

Both pieces featured here are substantial compositions, playing for 35 and 20 minutes respectively. The more recent is the Seventh Symphony. Entitled 'Angel of Light', it was composed in 1994, taking a stage further the series of 'Angel' compositions Rautavaara had begun back before the 1980s (of which Angels and Visitations of 1978 is another). Despite its recent date of composition, this version is actually the third recording of the Seventh Symphony to have been issued, the other two conducted by Osmo Vänskä and Leif Segerstam. However, this is the first to come from an orchestra outside Finland and the first to come at bargain price.

The Naxos version stands up well to this strong competition, although it is by no means a first choice. The conducting of Hannu Koivula captures the mysticism of the musical language, while he also has a real grip on the structure. As we would expect, the Scottish orchestra acquits itself with distinction and the recorded sound is very good, enabling their playing to shine.

Angels and Visitations, the first in Rautavaara's 'Angel' series of compositions, was inspired by a poem by Rilke and is concerned with images derived from dreams. Therefore the music has a mystical quality, although there is no direct programme. The expressive range is wide, with some impressive music for brass and percussion as well as passages atmospherically relying upon the strings. With splendid playing and good recorded sound, this like the Symphony can receive a confident recommendation.

Terry Barfoot



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