Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (b.1928)
Apotheosis - The Best of Einojuhani Rautavaara
Cantus arcticus (Concerto for Birds and Orchestra) (1972) [19:27]
Clarinet Concerto - 2nd movement (2001) [7:23] ²
Autumn Gardens - 3rd movement (1999) [10:32] ¹
Manhattan Trilogy - 1st movement (2005) [8:15]
Gift of Dreams (Third Piano Concerto) - 3rd movement (1998) [5:59] ¹
Angel of Light (Seventh Symphony) - 3rd movement (1994) [10:14]
Apotheosis (1992/1996) [7:51] ³
Richard Stoltzman (clarinet) ²: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano) ¹
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy ¹
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mikko Franck ³
rec. 1996-2008
ONDINE ODE 1081-2 [70:32]
Ondine’s devotion to the music of Einojuhani Rautavaara has been of considerable standing and of great depth. Here we have a disc of highlights of pieces from their catalogue. The only complete works are Cantus arcticus and Apotheosis, though admirers of the composer will know that whilst this last named is a separate work, and one that can be performed in isolation with minor adaptations, it also forms part of the Sixth Symphony.
I’m sure that this neatly selected series of works will whet the appetite of those yet to experience Rautavaara’s music. I think it’s right that if you’re going to present a compact work by him in toto it should be Cantus arcticus, which is one of his most popular. This Concerto for Birds and Orchestra, a beautiful title if ever there was one, evinces all his most personal and vital qualities - string wash of great, indeed magnetic, power and concentration, the quality of melancholy so often encountered in his music, and an accumulation of sound that reaches, at moments, almost a frenzy. For all his reflective qualities he has never been a dormant composer; rather he has managed to unleash moments of great power and energy that seem to have aggregated from the earlier material. Such, certainly, is the trajectory of this work, never for a moment gimmicky, always beautiful and, fortunately, the electronic song is expertly balanced in this recording.
The other works offer interesting perspectives too. The second movement of the Clarinet Concerto is played by the dedicatee Richard Stoltzman, who worked closely with the composer during its composition. Its lyric outpouring is as addictive as the third movement of Autumn Gardens, a nature portrait of powerful verdancy. The first part of Manhattan Trilogy is called Daydreams and its alternation of percussive power and refined lyricism is effectively realised, whereas the third movement of the Third Piano Concerto, called Gift of Dreams, is restless, passionate, bright edged and enshrines some truly portentous moments. Vladimir Ashkenazy plays and directs. The final two pieces are from symphonic works; Apotheosis is rapt and beautiful, whilst the segment from the Sixth Symphony is calm, dreamlike, reflective.
The majority of performances are by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under Leif Segerstam. All the performances are special and I hope they will lead appreciative and curious readers to the relevant Ondine box sets that house the symphonies and concertos.
Jonathan Woolf 

A disc of highlights.