, January 2000
Good heavens, this is gorgeous music! Anyone who can listen to this disc and still say that either (a) tonality is dead, or (b) there’s no great classical music being written any more, needs a major course of shock therapy. In just a few years, Rautavaara has come to be known not just as Finland’s greatest composer, but probably the world’s. It’s a reputation effortlessly sustained by this release. I can’t think of another composer presently active whose music is at once so deeply felt, so personal in style, so approachable, so intensely beautiful, but at the same time so free of anything that smacks of kitsch, sensationalism, or pandering to special interests whether conservative, progressive, or anything in between.
I believe that in Rautavaara’s current work we are witness to the artistic phenomenon of a truly great musical voice writing at full maturity. This is a rare enough occurrence in itself. How much more wonderful is it, then, when we have the privilege of hearing each new work in a first rate recording, practically as it’s created? For that we have Ondine to thank. This label’s far-sighted artistic partnership with Rautavaara represents one of the most enlightened policies in the classical record industry today, and offers genuine evidence of the logic and practical utility of placing commercial interests in the service of great new art.
Both works are played very well indeed by Ashkenazy and the Helsinki Philharmonic, and splendidly recorded by Ondine. This disc inaugurates a new partnership between conductor and orchestra that will eventually take in a new Sibelius symphony cycle.