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Posted October 1, 2010
Einojuhani Rautavaara is a Finnish composer of increasingly celebrated reputation, whose early experimentation with musical forms, including serialism, has for the most part given way to a more tonal and accessible direction. Like many of the more popular modern composers, there is a strong mystical component to his work. He frequently and evocatively combines strings and woodwinds to bring his austerely beautiful melodies to life. The three pieces on this disc are representative of his current musical inclinations and serve as an excellent introduction to his aesthetic. They’re all orchestral works, yet they possess a chamber music- like intimacy. Rautavaara never hits you over the head with the power of the orchestra, but always harnesses it for greater emotional effect. Apotheosis, a reworking of the fourth movement of the composer’s Sixth Symphony, is a lush piece for strings and woodwinds that conjures an idyllic, pastoral atmosphere. The melodic line is warm and flowing, like a river of sound that slowly and elegantly builds in intensity before breaking into a brassy, joyful crescendo. Manhattan Trilogy is a relatively short suite keyed to the city’s rhythms and textures. The first movement, titled “Daydreams,” is built upon a meandering, elegiac theme that gradually takes on overtones of anticipation and suspense. Strings and woodwinds voice the emotional message, buttressed by gently percussive piano. A series of urgent climaxes at the midpoint briefly heighten the intensity before the pastoral mood reaffirms itself. “Nightmares” lives up to its title, as it creates a much heavier, darker mood through swirling, nervous stings and ominous percussion. The dissonant trajectories Rautavaara unleashes here effectively suggest the shadowy side of the city. It’s almost like a 1940s film noir score—Bernard Herrmann crossed with Miklos Rosza, perhaps. “Dawn” is not as starkly dramatic, but a sense of unease nevertheless infects the music’s trajectory. The strings take on a restless, brooding character, and the overall texture assumes a harder edge. Swelling percussion helps guide the piece to a serene if slightly unsettling resolution. Rautavaara’s four-movement Eighth Symphony is another tightly choreographed work that seduces the listener with darkly beautiful themes, easygoing tempos and lush sonorities. It’s a very internal, personal work that speaks more to spiritual than temporal concerns. With the exception of the brief second movement, with its percussive agitation and dissonant tonalities, the symphony unfolds at an unvaryingly tranquil pace that avoids monotony through the vibrancy and beauty of Rautavaara’s melodic conception.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.