RAUTAVAARA (b.1928) Apotheosis (1996) [7:54] Manhattan Trilogy (2004) [18:29]
Symphony No. 8 The Journey (1999) [29:49]
Symphony Orchestra/Pietari Inkinen
rec. August 2006, Wellington Town Hall, Wellington, New
Zealand. DDD NAXOS 8.570069 [56:12]
influences on Rautavaara are many. Born in Finland, he
studied at Helsinki University and the Sibelius Academy
before travelling to America, where he trained with Persichetti
at Juilliard and Copland and Sessions at Tanglewood.
opening piece, Apotheosis, reminded me of
Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, both in terms of its
inherent romanticism and its musical language. Conceived
as a reworking of the final movement of the Sixth Symphony,
Rautavaara’s rich harmonies become increasingly dissonant
towards the climactic points, creating a wonderful sound
and well-paced tensions. The piece is in arch-form, building
gradually towards its final crescendo, before reprising
the earlier material for a gentle and poetic end.
Suite, composed for the Juilliard Symphony
Orchestra and first performed in 2005, opens in a less
complex harmonic language, with extended solos for
oboe and clarinet with the violin taking the melodic
interest over repeated chords. A more complex central
section returns some of Rautavaara’s more dissonant
language, before the initial mood returns with solos
for woodwind and violin. The second movement, Nightmare is
dark and brooding, with repeated figures building up
tension. Rautavaara uses parallel intervals to create
dissonance, with the same musical line heard simultaneously
at different pitches throughout the orchestra. The
effect is striking, with a rich and dramatic sound.
The final movement builds gradually, as one would perhaps
expect from a Dawn scene. The music develops
in intensity, with a haunting melodic line becoming
stronger and louder towards the peak of the movement
just before the end.
No. 8 The Journey has a film-like feel. Strong, dark and powerful, the opening
movement possesses its own life-force which drives the
work forwards. The composer has retained the rich, romantic
feel of the other works on the disc, but this is music
with a true sense of depth. The darkness is appealing,
and one is aware that the journey referred to in the
title is no ordinary voyage. The second movement takes
on a faster, more dramatic nature, as if impending danger
is merely seconds away. The driving force here is brass
and percussion, who give strength to this short but exciting
episode. The third movement continues without a break,
and provides a stark contrast. The music is slow and
contemplative, featuring a beautifully played horn solo.
The final movement has renewed vigour, but the melancholy
spirit remains. Long melodies are punctuated by the
sound of bells, and the rich harmonies are all encompassing
as the music builds gradually to its climax. The movement
has the epic feel of a film soundtrack and is instantly
likeable but at the same time possesses a musical depth
that would entice a listener to return again and again.
is an enjoyable disc, with some excellent playing from
the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. There are some wonderful
moments, particularly when the brass and percussion are
used to add a further dimension to the orchestral sound.
The music retains its momentum throughout, and the tension
created through increasing use of dissonance is a large
part of the music’s appeal. This is contemporary music
with tunes, but with sufficient dissonant interest in the
musical language to remain fresh and enough of a musical
challenge to be exciting to hear. Much can be gained from
listening to Rautavaara’s music, both emotionally and intellectually,
and this is a performance of which the New Zealand Symphony
Orchestra and Pietari Inkinen deserve to be proud.
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