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
Dances with the Winds is a flute concerto. I thought of the Nielsen
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
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.