|About this Recording
8.554147 - RAUTAVAARA: Cantus Arcticus / Piano Concerto No. 1 / Symphony No. 3
Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928)
Einojuhani Rautavaara is one of the most colourful and diverse figures in Finnish music. He is an artist of exceptionally broad scope, at once Romantic and intellectual, mysticist and constructivist. He has gone through a great many stages in his stylistic development, yet he has combined different stylistic elements in post-modernist fashion within individual works. Rautavaara began his career under the influence of post-war Neo-Classicism; in the 1950s, he began to apply twelve-tone procedures and progressed in some works to quite a modernist idiom. On the other hand, even works written close to each other in time could differ widely in their approach; for instance, in his Third Symphony, written in the middle of his twelve-tone period, he gave free rein to the luscious romantic emotion that came to dominate his music from the late onwards. Since the late 1970s, he has been creating a synthesis of various stylistic influences. Rautavaara's extensive and versatile output contains several operas, seven symphonies, other orchestral works, concertos, chamber music, piano music and vocal music. Rautavaara has been a major Finnish composer since the 1950s, and has been steadily gaining in international esteem, especially in the 1990s.
Orchestral music is an important genre in Rautavaara's work. The symphonies form its core, spanning his career and illustrating his stylistic development. We should note, though, that Rautavaara's symphonic cycle did not take on its present form until the 1980s, when the composer revised the first two symphonies and replaced the original Fourth Symphony with Arabescata (1962). From the late 1960s and early 1970s in particular, Rautavaara's orchestral music has been characterized by an opulent sonority and grand romantic gestures. His expressive palette extends from lyrical soaring melodies to incisive rhythms and massive cascades of sound. The various solo concertos combine these features with a soloistic and instrumental dimension. Rautavaara has remarked that his concertos are "a drama, a conflict between the individual and the collective".
Cantus Arcticus, Concerto for birds and orchestra (1972)
The Cantus Arcticus was commissioned by the ‘Arctic’ University of Oulu for its degree ceremony. Instead of the conventional festive cantata for choir and orchestra, I wrote a 'concerto for birds and orchestra'. The bird sounds were taped in the Arctic Circle and the marshlands of Liminka. The first movement, Suo (‘The Marsh’), opens with two solo flutes. They are gradually joined by other wind instruments and the sounds of bog birds in spring. Finally, the strings enter with abroad melody that might be interpreted as the voice and mood of a person walking in the wilds. In Melankolia, the featured bird is the shore lark; its twitter has been brought down by two octaves to make it a 'ghost bird'. Joutsenet muuttavat (‘Swans migrating’) is an aleatory texture with four independent instrumental groups. The texture constantly increases in complexity, and the sounds of the migrating swans are multiplied too, until finally the sound is lost in the distance.
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1969)
My First Piano Concerto was a very personal composition: it was written for my own idiosyncratic piano technique, and in fact I have performed it myself with many orchestras. I was disappointed at that time with the strict academic structuring of serialist music and the ascetic mainstream style of piano music, which I found anaemic. In the concerto, therefore, I returned to the aesthetics of expressiveness and a sonorous, 'grand-style' keyboard technique. One could say that this was a post-modernist work created before anyone had even invented the term. The concerto opens with unabashed palm clusters, which in the recapitulation become forearm clusters, these, however, are underpinned by arpeggios and the overall effect is replete with unbridled singing pathos. From the beginning of the second movement to the end of the work there is a continuous escalation. The slow movement expands, coalesces and accelerates until a dissonant and dramatic cadenza leads into the unrestrained dance of the concluding movement in 3+2+3 time, a rhythm that can also be found in several of my other works.
Symphony No. 3 (1959-60)
In my cycle of symphonies, the Third is a sort of synthesis of the romanticism of the First and the modernism of the Second. The listener will not necessarily be aware that the music is in fact dodecaphonic, since the technique is not used here to generate full chromaticism or atonality. The twelve tones of the tempered chromatic scale are merely the 'vocabulary' of twentieth century music, and the 'syntax' one uses to construct the actual music is the main question. The intervals of the Third Symphony are derived from a twelve-tone row. The music, however, is freely constructed and emphatically tonal. The musical pulse of the fourth movement progresses in solemn, almost Brucknerian arcs, as if echoing the rhythm of the earth and sea.
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