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Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, November 2011

Ondine has confirmed its superior position by issuing boxed collections of Rautavaara’s symphonies and concertos. Everything is well documented, nicely honed and polished yet fresh and well connected to folk dance. Read complete review

Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, November 2011

This brings together Rautavaara’s complete works for violin and piano, spanning his entire career from 1952 to 2005. Four of the six pieces are first recordings.

Lost Landscapes (2005), his most substantial work for violin and piano, consists of four pieces referring to important places where he lived and worked as a young man. The pieces are all lyrical and don’t obviously reflect musical styles related to these places or life episodes, though the lively finale is said to reflect New York’s hustle and bustle. All are expressive and effective and should make a nice addition to the violin recital repertoire…

Of the smaller individual pieces, Summer Thoughts (1972, rev. 2006) is a very beautiful study in tonal progression, and April Lines (1970, 2006) is a somewhat more scattered nine-minute piece gluing together several attractive but not very well developed ideas. Notturno e Danza (1993) was written for a Finnish violin competition. The gorgeous Notturno became the first movement of his Seventh Symphony (Angel of Light); the little Danza could be by Ravel. Varietude (1974) is a solo violin work written for the International Sibelius Competition as a required piece. It’s a not especially convincing series of variations in Rautavaara’s more “advanced” style. The more tonal Dithyrambos (1970) won a competition and became the required piece for the same competition just a few years earlier. It’s short and suitably spectacular.

The closing work on the program, The Fiddlers (1952), is actually not a violin piece, but a piano suite based on Ostrobothnian polska melodies. It is Rautavaara’s Opus 1. Violinist Kuusisto introduces each movement with early 19th Century transcriptions of the actual fiddle tune used in each piece, complete with their characteristic “rather far-fetched” variations (the composer’s words). The result is delightful, and both versions are dispatched with love and rambunctious virtuosity by these fine players.

This wonderful release will be of interest both to violinists and everyone on the lookout for winning chamber music.

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, October 2011

Kuusisto and Jumppanen are persuasive executants—Rautavaara’s challenging technical demands are thrown off with élan…Top-notch sound.

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, October 2011

…Kuusisto hit on the idea of playing the actual fiddle tunes before the relevant piano sections. It works wonderfully—and there’s some tremendous fiddle playing!

David Hurwitz, September 2011

…this performance, a fine one by Paavali Jumppanen, Pekka Kuusisto offers solo violin versions of the original folk tunes that Rautavaara selected for his suite. The result is fascinating; …robust, folk-fiddle melodies…Kopsin Jonas…enters evocatively in the bass over a swirling treble ostinato. Great stuff!

The excitingly brief Dithyrambos and Notturno e danza deliver what their titles suggest, while the other pieces are all nostalgic mood-pieces, often very beautiful.

Kuusisto…plays very well, with plenty of color in his tone; …Jumppanen also does an excellent job… The sonics are generally excellent, well balanced… Ondine’s Rautavaara recordings really are major additions to the contemporary music scene. This one is no exception., July 2011

The music of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (born 1928) is in general less familiar to audiences, and a new recording of some of his pieces for violin and piano, although very well played, is unlikely to change that. Rautavaara’s larger-scale works (symphonies, concertos, operas) are somewhat more impressive than the miniatures offered here, resulting in a (+++) rating for the CD. Four of the seven pieces heard on this disc are world première recordings: Lost Landscapes (2005), Summer Thoughts (1972/2008), April Lines (1970/2006), and Dithyrambos (1970). All are nicely constructed in a modern compositional idiom that lies more easily on the ear than is often the case with the music of 20th- and 21st-century composers. Also on the CD are Notturno e danza (1993), whose two movements are effectively contrasted, and Variétude (1974), a cleverly titled work for solo violin that nicely displays the performer’s technique. The final work on the disc is especially interesting: Pelimannit (The Fiddlers), a suite for piano that dates back all the way to 1952. It is written entirely for piano but based entirely on traditional Finnish fiddle tunes—and in this recording, Pekka Kuusisto plays each of those tunes before Paavali Jumppanen performs each of the movements of the suite. The result is an intriguing opportunity to hear a composer’s sources of inspiration—and how he alters them in his chosen instrumental and compositional idiom. Although Rautavaara’s music has not caught on internationally to the same extent as that of his countryman Sibelius, it is generally interesting and certainly worth occasional hearings, even if most of the short-form works on this CD are somewhat less engaging than Rautavaara’s larger and more ambitious compositions.

James Manheim, July 2011

This release on the Finnish label Ondine offers Einojuhani Rautavaara’s complete works for violin and piano. This isn’t a large group, and even the composer’s chamber works in general are not numerous. Accordingly the collection of music here is something of a miscellany, and the buyer new to Rautavaara will probably find that his genius reveals itself better in larger genres. This said, fans of the composer will find much of interest here. Among the highlights is Rautavaara’s very first published work, Pelimannit (The Fiddlers), a suite for piano from 1952. The work consists of variations, one each, on six traditional Finnish fiddle tunes, and violinist Pekka Kuusisto here had the inspired idea to pair the variations with the fiddle tunes themselves. For listeners may not have the sound of Finnish folk music in their heads, this brings out the imagination of these little pieces, whose luminous tone took them far beyond the world of Bartók in which they were probably based. Lost Landscapes, composed in for the violinist Midori in 2005, comes from the other end of Rautavaara’s career; it fits depictions of four of Rautavaara’s temporary homes—Tanglewood in Massachusetts, Ascona (Switzerland), Vienna, and New York City—into his winding contrapuntal style. In between are a variety of short pieces, several of them written for competition settings; they boil Rautavaara’s spacious style down to the simple dimensions of the violin-and-piano duet. Kuusisto’s playing is a major attraction here; he cultivates a wiry yet attractive tone that seems tailor-made for Rautavaara. Ondine’s engineering is at its usual high level.

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