, January 2008
The shortest piece (just under 15 minutes), Garden of Spaces, is the one I found most successful. Rautavaara’s music presents itself in broad gestures: lush, sweeping cushions of orchestral sonority against which some sort of expansively rhetorical focal activity takes place. Originally composed in 1971, but revised in 2003, Garden of Spaces is actually structured aleatorically, leaving much of the work’s design to the conductor. In this case, composer-conductor Leif Segerstam seems ideal, making of it a very fulfilling, satisfyingly shaped experience; as “ear candy,” it is quite delicious, and concise enough not to induce tedium or impatient annoyance.
The “big” piece here is the Clarinet Concerto. Composed in 2001 for—and in consultation with—Richard Stoltzman, who gave the work’s premiere the following year with the National Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin’s direction, and who performs it on this first recording, the concerto feels somewhat longer than its 26 minutes. Despite some sense of agitation and conflict in the work’s outer movements, most of it follows the general description given in the previous paragraph above: against the large expanses of luxuriant orchestral texture, the clarinet plays largely diatonic lines that are mostly non-metrical or cadenza-like in effect, peppered with some slightly non-traditional instrumental effects. …Stoltzman presents the concerto with his customary technical virtuosity and luscious tone quality.
…Cantus Arcticus, with its blend of Arctic birdsongs—both natural and electronically altered—and richly consonant orchestration, occupies a place among the works of Rautavaara generally analogous to the hypothetical combination of Hovhaness’s And God Created Great Whales and Mysterious Mountain. Or, put another way, Cantus Arcticus evokes a sense of serene exaltation that is remarkably similar to that conjured by Mysterious Mountain, while it far surpasses in sophistication and craftsmanship Hovhaness’s concoction of whale sounds with orchestral accompaniment. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review