Rautavaara: Garden of Spaces; Clarinet Concerto; Cantus Arcticus

Rautavaara: Garden of Spaces; Clarinet Concerto; Cantus Arcticus

by Leif Segerstam
     
 

Like Jean Sibelius, his greatest predecessor among Finnish composers, Einojuhani Rautavaara has a rare ability to conjure up the forces of nature in his music. In the orchestral score Garden of Spaces (1971), he also conjures up Sibelius himself -- whether intentionally or not -- as echoes of symphonic poems like Tapiola weave their way throughSee more details below

Overview

Like Jean Sibelius, his greatest predecessor among Finnish composers, Einojuhani Rautavaara has a rare ability to conjure up the forces of nature in his music. In the orchestral score Garden of Spaces (1971), he also conjures up Sibelius himself -- whether intentionally or not -- as echoes of symphonic poems like Tapiola weave their way through Rautavaara's glistening soundscapes. Combined here with Rautavaara's most popular work and with one of his most recent, Garden of Spaces is a perfect point of entry into the composer's sonic world. It prepares the way for the widely performed Cantus Arcticus, which dates from the following year; rather than just conveying orchestral impressions of nature, here Rautavaara actually brings nature into the concert hall. No doubt the picturesque use of recorded bird sounds (the subtitle is "Concerto for Birds and Orchestra") is partly responsible for the work's success, but this isn't a gimmick: The inspiration is remarkably original in effect, and the blending of birds with orchestra is executed with great sensitivity by conductor Leif Segerstam, especially as the boundary between woodwinds and migrating swans becomes blurry. But the central focus of this album is the premiere recording of Rautavaara's Clarinet Concerto, composed for Richard Stoltzman in 2001. It's beautifully written for the instrument, whose melodic line rarely gets a moment's rest -- even at dramatic climaxes, the lyrical element predominates -- and it seems tailor made for Stoltzman's powers of control and expression. If it wasn't for the fact that a clarinetist of this caliber is harder to come by than a recording of birdsong, it would be easy to imagine this concerto surpassing the Cantus Arcticus in popularity. An essential recording for admirers of Rautavaara or Stoltzman, this album will also appeal to anyone seeking beauty in contemporary music.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Einojuhani Rautavaara is arguably Finland's most popular modern composer because of his approachable, neo-Romantic orchestral music; yet his works' consistently somber tone, gray orchestration, and fairly static pacing make them predictable and tedious. Noted for exploiting a variety of methods and for writing in both avant-garde and traditionalist styles, Rautavaara is nonetheless most recognizable for his slow harmonic rhythms and overcast colors, and his monochromatic music is barely disturbed by exciting ideas or startling innovations. When he experiments with aleatoric procedures in "Garden of Spaces" (1971, revised 2003), Rautavaara is careful to score the interchangeable sections blandly so they slip past each other with the least amount of friction. The pseudo-concerto for taped bird calls and orchestra, "Cantus Arcticus" (1972), moves quite slowly in its glacial counterpoint and progressions; while the score evokes its subject most aptly, it is still a tedious slog through Rautavaara's austere Scandinavian scenes. Even the "Clarinet Concerto" (2001), which should be a dynamic showpiece, is dominated by too many stretches of brooding melancholy. Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, under Leif Segerstam, valiantly try to make the work take off, particularly in the Vivace finale; but the few bravura passages in the solo part are not enough to make this weighty vehicle break free of Rautavaara's gravitational pull.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/24/2005
Label:
Ondine
UPC:
0761195104125
catalogNumber:
1041
Rank:
71537

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Garden of Spaces, for orchestra  - Einojuhani Rautavaara  - Leif Segerstam  -  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra  - Reijo Kiilunen  - Cheri Tamminen
  2. Clarinet Concerto  - Einojuhani Rautavaara  - Leif Segerstam  -  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra  - Reijo Kiilunen  - Richard Stoltzman  - Cheri Tamminen
  3. Cantus Arcticus (Concerto for Birds & Orchestra), for orchestra & taped bird songs, Op. 61  - Einojuhani Rautavaara  - Leif Segerstam  -  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra  - Reijo Kiilunen  - Cheri Tamminen

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