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Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (1928-2016)
Works for Cello and Piano
Cello Sonata No. 1 (1972-73/2016) [17:55]
Two Preludes & Fugues (1955) [9:35]
Sonata for Cello Solo (1969) [14:23]
Sydämeni laulu (Song of my heart) (1996/200) [3:19]
Cello Sonata No. 2 (1991) [18:05]
Polska (Polka) (1977) [4:37]
Tanja Tetzlaff (cello)
Gunilla Süssmann (piano)
rec. 2017, Sendesaal Bremen, Germany
ONDINE ODE1310-2 [67:57]

Despite owning a lot of Rautavaara’s music on disc, I have only ventured into the world of his chamber music once and that was the wonderful disc of his string quartets performed by the Jean Sibelius Quartet (ODE 909-2), so I was more than happy to listen to this super disc. Einojuhani Rautavaara was once described as the most promising Finnish composer, and he composed a number of chamber works featuring a wide range of instrumentation.

The most important works featured on this disc, for me at least, are the three cello sonatas, with the two numbered ones presenting the finest music, with the earliest of the three not quite matching the mastery of the two numbered sonatas. The Cello Sonata No. 1, which the composer revised shortly before his death, has long swathes of lush cello writing which is underpinned by the more agitated, even aggressive at times, piano line. It is a fine piece that shows off the composer’s individuality, both in terms of compositional style, but also in the way that whilst you know it is a work by Rautavaara it is slightly different from anything else he composed, and it is also one I enjoyed greatly, and the disc is worth the price just for this sonata.

In comparison the Cello Sonata No. 2, which is partly based on music from the 1970s, is for me a tougher nut to crack. This could be due to the composer’s brief flirtation with serialism, with the musical language being denser and more complex than the First Sonata. It is still an interesting and rewarding work, and the one I have probably listened to most, as it takes repeated listens to get to know it. This further strengthens the idea that whilst Rautavaara sounds like Rautavaara, his was a style that was ever changing.

Of the other works the Two Preludes and Fugues come from an earlier more tonal part of his compositional development and deal with the music of Einar Englund and Béla Bartók. Sydämeni laulu is a transcription of the final aria from his opera Aleksis Kivi, and was composed in memory of his friend Lepo Sumera. The final work on the disc, Polska, is composed for two cellos and piano, with Tetzlaff playing both cello parts.

This is a very rewarding disc, one in which Tanja Tetzlaff and Gunilla Süssmann prove to be an admirable partnership, one that has reached the soul of the composer through his wonderful music. The recorded sound and booklet notes are excellent, making this a most attractive disc.

Stuart Sillitoe


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