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Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (b. 1928)
Symphony No. 7 Angel of Light (1994 - 95)
Dances with the Winds (1974)
Cantus Arcticus

Petri Alanko (flute)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä.
Rec. Church of the Cross, Ristinkirkko, Lahti, Finland, June 1999 (No. 7), August 1995 (Cantus Arcticus); April 1992 (Dances) DDD
BIS CD-301038 [74’49"]


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A mid-price issue from BIS?? What on earth is the world coming to?? It is BIS’s 30th Anniversary and they have re-released a series of 30 discs all culled from their extensive catalogue at mid-price. The discs have retained their original catalogue numbers, only these have been prefixed by the number 30. This disc was originally issued in December 1999, and may still be available on its original catalogue number. In fact, the disc carries the original catalogue number, as does the booklet, so I hope dealers do not get confused when ordering these products.

I don’t know how long it will be available at this price, but in case it is deleted, don’t hesitate. This is a superb disc, issued in this form when the 7th Symphony was originally released. BIS filled up the disc with the Cantus Arcticus and Dances with the Winds which had already held their place in the catalogue with other couplings.

This combination of orchestra and conductor is pre-eminent in this repertoire and there are not many who can do a better job. Judging by the recording dates, this symphony must have just missed being recorded in the Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s new hall, but this is of little consequence when BIS’s recording is of such high quality.

Angel of Light (Symphony No. 7) was completed in 1995 and was commissioned by the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. It was awarded the Midem prize at Cannes, as well as a Grammy nomination and the ABC prize in Australia. It continues the series of works inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s "Duino’s Elegies". In these, "every angel is terrifying" so that its "stronger presence would kill if it held you tight." Concentration on this literary work acted somewhat as a mantra with the composer, and has given rise to "Angels and Visitations", "Angel of Dusk", and the present work "Angel of Light". Because of this, there is no actual programme, more that the mantra has generated an atmosphere which has resulted in long lines, epic narrative, and a sense of symphonic development. This feeling of development is often distressingly absent from much modern music and I am sure that this sense of organic growth has been partly responsible for the composer’s current popularity.

The second work on this well filled disc is the four movement Flute Concerto which unusually is written for four different members of the flute family: the wooden piccolo, the alto flute, the gold flute, and the bass flute. These are not played simultaneously and multi-tracked, but each is chosen to reflect the character of the passages in which they are played. A novel idea which works very well. The flautist, Petri Alanko, plays extremely well, no doubt inspired by the superb accompaniment.

The final work is the Cantus Arcticus for orchestra and prepared tape of birdsong. The composer’s own tape recording is used in this performance, consisting of a number of northern birds, such as cranes and swans, together with other unidentified species. There is here, a wonderful opportunity for bird-watchers to do a bit of detective work. Cantus Arcticus is the composer’s most famous work, proving once again that a gimmick markets well. The composer asked listeners to think of autumn and Tchaikovsky – well I am not so sure about that, but it certainly does not detract from the pleasure I have had from this disc. Very highly recommended.


John Phillips

 



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