Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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EINOJUHANI RAUTAVAARA (b.1928) Symphony No. 7 Angel of Light (1994-95) Dances with the Winds - Flute Concerto (1974) Cantus Arcticus (1972)  Lahti SO/Osmo Vänska rec 1992, 1995 1999, Lahti, Finland BIS CD-1038 [74.49]
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If Rautavaara can be associated with any 'school' it is with the (now not so) New Consonance. His music, on this evidence meets Sibelian illumination (especially Sibelius Symphony No. 6 and Pelleas) with Mahlerian idyllic serenades (Mahler 5 adagietto). I know from having heard the violin concerto and the third symphony that he was not always so approachable. Both that symphony and the concerto were works of forbidding thorniness.

He seems to have evolved out of that but first he must have evolved into thorniness because Cantus Arcticus dates from 1972. In fact the latter was my introduction to Rautavaara. I taped this on 15 June 1982 and I do hope that the composer and Fazer do not object. It was revelatory. Rather like Alan Hovhaness' And God Created Great Whales (which superimposes tapes of various types of whale song onto an orchestra) the songs of birds (as taped on location by the composer) forms a concerto with and part of the orchestra. Remember Sibelius's heartbreaking Scene With Cranes (affectingly done by Berglund with the Bournemouth SO) well this actually has the song of the birds rather than an instrumental echo. The three movements are entitled: Bog; Melancholy and Swans Migrating. They have an epic sorrow and solitary beauty. Man is a passing nonentity in this mindscape. The music is wispy and always tuneful and it melts and reforms in gauzy voile clouds of valediction.

The symphony is in four movements. The parallels are already noted above. Those reference points also extend to include Peteris Vasks (remember the recent Teldec review) and Arvo Pärt when he is in his less-uncompromising mode - as in his own Cantus. The vibraphone provides a resonant 'earth' for a cathedral of string arches. Shostakovich is a signpost in the riled irritation of the second movement while in the come uno sogno tranced high strings seem to celebrate November sunrises. The finale starts out jarringly stern but soon marries into the mood of the first movement ending in tranquillity.

Dances with the Winds is a flute concerto. I thought of the Nielsen occasionally … but not often. This is an elysian work with wispy strings at 5.30 so quiet they are on the edge of silence. The second movement vivace is like a Finnish dance written by Malcolm Arnold. The andante moderato is back to the elysian warmth and sun-dappled pastures. The finale is abrasively gruff but soon shakes this off to find elysian peace again.

Notes are excellent. The usual subdued impeccable competence covers the technical and support documentation and the design of the disc.

A disc for adventurous Sibelians and those craving lyricism.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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