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Posted February 22, 2011
The new Ondine recording of "Kaivos" (The Mine) by Einojuhani Rautavaara has a certain relevance over fifty years after its composition. Rautavaara was a young composer, beginning to build what is now an international reputation when he was inspired by the actual events of a 1956 Hungarian miners's uprising. The story, in which an entire group of miners was trapped and left to do by the Communist forces repressing their workers' rebellion. Additionally, Rautavaara had scarcely completed this opera along strikingly similar story lines when the Russian government put substantial pressure on Finland to not allow any civic actions or artistic endeavors that could incite similar unrest in Finland, still a Soviet "puppet state" to large extent. This "Night Frost Crisis" of 1959 actually delayed the premiere of Rautavaara's work until a TV production occurred in 1963, after the composer's final version of "Kaivos", from 1962, heard on this recording. With contemporary world events, such as the Egyptian - and now Libyan - uprisings as one reads this, and regardless of any theories regarding the causes and effects of such revolts, the themes in this opera are eerily relevant. The music itself is early Rautaavara, built on tone rows, in a version of dodecaphony that owes something to Berg, though not purely serialistic. The sound is consequently a bit more angular than what many know as Rautavaara's later style; the exotic harmonies and lush orchestrations of his "Angels of Light" for example. The libretto, to "Kaivos", also by the composer takes place in the 1950s (intended to seem present day to the listener; as still does in my opinion) and the present recording by the Tampere Philharmonic and maestro Hannu Lintu is excellent. The principal roles are sung very well and convincingly. Hannu Niemala as Simon brings a fervor with a touch of naivete to his role as the "former partisan" and seems gullible one moment and cruel the next. Johanna Rusanen-Kartano as his lover, Ira, is equally convincing. Her Act II Sartre like soliloquy - that takes place in a bar including an odd jazz combo and is reminiscent of the tavern scene in "Wozzeck" - is stark, pitiable. Both the Commissar (played by the esteemed Jorma Hynninen) and the Priest, sung by Jaako Kortekangas present two very different views of the miners (and the extended society's) plight: a message of hopelessness with an underlying tinge of hope in the former and its converse, in the latter. Lintu had given "Kaivos" its first fully staged performance just in 2010 and this recording is an outgrowth of that. The recording and package are well up to Ondine's usual high standards. It would be an interesting exercise to compare this work both musically and thematically to Sallinen's "The Red Line". On its own, "Kaivos" is one more example of why, in my view, some of Europe's greatest contemporary music written since 1950 has come from Scandinavia, Finland, in particular, and Einojuhani Rautavaara as the prime moving force. Highly recommended!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.