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Andrew Mellor
Gramophone, July 2018

Rautavaara’s 2008 concerto conjures the mystic with mallet instruments and the shamanistic with drums, weaving the whole into a naturally unfolding orchestral canvas. © 2018 Gramophone

Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, December 2012

The main attractions in this release are the two recent concertos i.e. the Second Cello Concerto and the Percussion Concerto which are amongst his finest works while the inclusion of a revised version of an early work Modificata also adds to one’s appreciation of the composer’s stylistic progress over his long creative life. © 2012 MusicWeb International

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, December 2012

Ondine’s ongoing Rautavaara cycle has surely reached its apogee with this astonishing disc, which includes an unforgettable Modificata and Colin Currie’s splendid performance of the Percussion Concerto. As if that weren’t enough, the sound on this CD is among the best I’ve ever heard. Without a doubt, this is my Recording of the Year. © 2012 MusicWeb International

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, October 2012

The turbulent introduction to the Second Cello Concerto instantly grabs the attention and draws one into its troubled musings. From out of this uncertain universe spins a heart-stopping cello line, whose ethereal beauty is captured in a 24-bit DXD recording of rare subtlety and presence. Balances are just perfect, soloist and orchestra engaged in a yearning dialogue that’s both profoundly beautiful and intensely moving. I played this piece several times, if only to assure myself I’d actually heard such out-of-this-world music and music-making. Yes, this understated concerto really is that magical, and I just know I’ll return to it time and time again.

As for the early Modificata, revised in 2003, dodecaphony has seldom sounded so ravishing. There’s little of the stern pedagogue in this rigorously conceived—and most virtuosic—score; packed with ear-tweaking incident it’s imbued with a gentle grace and serene loveliness that comes perilously close to that most exalted state, the sublime. The quiet, gong-struck epiphanies are especially thrilling, and although the final movement is tough and sinewy it never loses its lyrical impulse. What a find this is; yet another work to add to my ever-lengthening list of Rautavaara favourites. Both Storgårds and his band are supremely assured here, and the top-notch recording adds immensely to one’s enjoyment of this composer’s distinctive sound world.

Aho’s Luosto Symphony is rooted in a dark, distant shamanism, and Incantations—the subtitle of this Percussion Concerto—may suggest an unformed world that’s just as strange and elemental. Those odd timp rolls in the first movement do indeed herald the arrival of something defiantly ‘other’, the vibraphone and marimba augmenting the sense of mysticism and immemoriality. Make no mistake, this couldn’t be further from the filmic hocus-pocus associated with such things; indeed, this shimmering score is simply gorgeous, the sheer fecundity of Rautavaara’s writing matched by Currie’s discreet, unearthly tones. As for the next movement’s sculptures in sound their delicate timbres are reproduced with astonishing fidelity. There’s a robust cadenza in the third, but the deep spell, once cast, remains unbroken to the end.

Occasionally a recording comes so close to the unrepeatable concentration and colour of a live event that one feels compelled to applaud at the close; I daresay you will too, for this really is an extraordinary achievement.

Bravo, bravo and thrice bravo; my disc of the year. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, October 2012

Truls Mørk’s beautifully controlled performance of the valedictory Second Cello Concerto, Towards the Horizon (2008–09), is as remarkable, caressing out the subtleties of the variation-form structure in which the soloist rarely seems not to be playing! The support from the excellent Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under John Storgårds (who seems to go from strength to strength on the podium) and Ondine’s sensational, vivid sound set the seal on a superb Contemporary Award-winner. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2012

…Rautavaara at his very best.

These are very moving and highly personal statements by a composer whose work deserves better recognition. It almost goes without saying that John Storgärds does an excellent job conducting, and the Helsinki Philharmonic plays extraordinarily well. This disc is a keeper. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, June 2012

Rautavaara composed fourteen concertos of which the Second Cello Concerto and the Percussion Concerto are the most recent…One’s ears are immediately caught by the rich thematic material, the beautiful scoring and the idiomatic solo part, the whole amounting to a strongly expressive work that might—actually should—find a permanent place in any cellist’s repertoire. Truls Mørk, the work’s dedicatee, plays beautifully throughout and he obviously relishes every moment.

The Percussion Concerto is a worthwhile addition to the rather limited repertoire of works for percussion and orchestra…Colin Currie navigates fearlessly through the demanding solo part, tailor-made to meet his remarkable virtuosity and musicality.

All in all, this is a superb release with outstanding performances, excellent notes by Kimmo Korhonen…and superb recorded sound. The whole is well up to Ondine’s best standards. These lushly scored and often beautiful works should appeal to anyone looking for attractive and accessible contemporary music. Rautavaara’s fans will need no further recommendation since this very fine release fills important gaps in this composer’s generous discography. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, May 2012

The tone is valedictory and resigned. There is a great deal of beauty in these pages…Cellist Mork is a sensitive, articulate advocate.

Many of the orchestral passages are beautiful…[The Percussion Concerto] fits in well with the rest of the program, which serves as a useful demonstration of the “continuous variation” concept, with this concerto by far the easiest piece to follow. Its easy accessibility will likely endear it to some listeners. Rautavaara fans will likely want to add these concertos to their collections. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Stephen Eddins, May 2012

…this piece is full of the Romantic, sweeping lines that characterize Rautavaara’s most familiar style…Both pieces have evocative titles that suggest mystery and the unknown, and are essentially lyrical and strongly melodic. In the Percussion Concerto that means ample use of marimba and vibraphone. In both works Rautavaara conjures up images of mysterious wind-swept landscapes with a signature device: passages of swirling activity, often in the woodwinds, coursing over a slow-moving bass and under a soaring, lyrical melody. John Storgårds leads the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in atmospheric and energetic reading of the scores. The concertos feature the soloists for whom they were written. Cellist Truls Mørk plays with a sweet, singing, intense tone that suits the character of the concerto well. Scottish percussionist Colin Currie manages the composer’s demanding score with ease and panache. Ondine, sound is clean, detailed, and nicely ambient. © 2012 Read complete review

Gramophone, May 2012

Unfamiliar music but, with such power and impact, not to mention plenty of percussion, Ondine’s disc of concertos by Rautavaara is a stern test of any system © 2012 Gramophone

Tom Huizenga
National Public Radio, April 2012

The three-movement concerto is laid out in the tried and true fast-slow-fast formula, which plays into Currie’s virtuosity in the outer movements. Rautavaara’s opening gambit, a complex marimba line that stretches out as if to the horizon, eventually gives way to raucous passages for drums and cymbals. The heart of the work is the central “Espressivo,” a calm oasis for vibraphone only where repeated chords get refracted over again in various keys.

The final movement…with its shifting pulsations, hints at Rautavaara’s mystical side. In his notes to the piece, he says it “could be a shaman’s dance in a jerky rhythm.” And that shaman might as well be Currie armed with his mallets, his battery of instruments and his staggering technique.

But Incantations isn’t the only compelling concerto on this album. Not long after completing it, Rautavaara wrote his Second Cello Concerto, subtitling it “Towards the Horizon.” Written for Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk, who plays most expressively, the concerto unfolds as a long, romantic song, with barely a breath in the cello line. The nearly constant outpouring of lyricism includes achingly beautiful passages sung in the cello’s very highest register in the finale.

Sandwiched between the two sublime concertos is the three-movement Modificata. As its title might suggest, it’s a reworking of some of Rautavaara’s very earliest music from the 1950s, written in a serialist style with atmospheric orchestration.

Throughout the disc, the Helsinki Philharmonic plays beautifully for conductor Jan Storgårds, and the recorded sound is transparent with a surprisingly wide dynamic. This is a good one for an excellent set of headphones or a whopping stereo system. © 2012 Deceptive Cadence/National Public Radio Read complete review

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, April 2012

Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928) established himself during the 1950s by applying modernist and serial techniques to his music, but then quickly devised his own “tonal” structure to which he’s pretty well stuck to ever since, and developed a personal style that is now easily identifiable and a pleasure to listen to. His Cello Concerto No. 2 “Towards the Horizon” from 2009, is a prime example of this. Opulent themes, expansive lines, colorful orchestration, and the clever and well managed use of two of his trademark techniques; a semi-constant state of vibrant energy, like the birth of a maelstrom within the orchestral under-currents, and the simultaneous combination of semitones spread over an octave (G and G# for example) over long melodic lines, creating an ethereal effect when used sparingly. Throw in some long, ardent, neo-romantic lines for the cello to establish the core of the work, and you have a winning combination of various factors that come together to form an impressive concerto. Add to all this moments of exceptional beauty, during the final moments of the work, where the cello soars to the highest register and practically assumes the role of a violin and, at the very end, becomes the horizon. Cellist Truls Mørk, the work’s dedicatee, delivers a première interpretation that sets the bar very high for future contenders. His singing tone and effortless portamento are commendable. © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review

David Hurwitz, April 2012

Rautavaara’s late works continue to reveal the hand of a master with a completely assured technique and a serenely confident personal style. Towards the Horizon, his Cello Concerto No. 2, is an introspective, poetic work cast in large-scale variation form. Like so many modern concertos, its quiet ending may limit its chances of becoming popular in concert, but the quality of the music is never in doubt and the melodic material is truly memorable. To his credit, Rautavaara apportions the majority of the solo writing to vibraphone and marimba, with contrasting episodes given to untuned percussion. The result, effectively varied timbrally, works very well; even the concluding cadenza fits logically into its place in the finale, and does not outstay its welcome. Time will tell if “the percussion concerto problem,” if you accept that there is one, has been solved definitively. Either way, this is a very enjoyable listen.

Modificata belongs to Rautavaara’s early, twelve-tone period (the late 1950s)…they are as characterful or successful as his later works. …Rautavaara fashions distinctive melodic material for each of the piece’s three movements—the quick finale is particularly exciting and successful. …the performances are excellent…the Helsinki Philharmonic under John Storgards does its usual fine job. So, for that matter, do Ondine’s engineers. Very recommendable. © 2012 Read complete review

Daniel Coombs
Audiophile Audition, April 2012

Rautavaara’s Cello Concerto No. 2, “Towards the Horizon”, is an expansive and clearly Romantic work in one movement, but with three distinct and evocative sections. The sound is lush and very picturesque. …this is a captivating and beautiful work written in the mysterious, arching manner of Rautavaara’s later works. Truls Mørk, for whom it was written performs with sensitivity and emotion.

For “early” Rautavaara, this disc features Modificata, a work for orchestra written in 1957, revised in 2003. …a very good work and would definitely remind people of works like Berg’s Lyric Suite in places.

Rautavaara’s Incantations is a three-movement percussion concerto and very much in line with his current style. Soloist Colin Currie is known for his virtuoso approach to modern music and Incantations shows off his mallet skills in particular. Rautavaara, as Korhonen points out, did not want to “oversell” the shamanistic feel implied by the title, so he did not over use the predictable repeated patterns. Rather, the percussion tends to fit into a conversation with the rest of the orchestra in a most appealing way. Colin Currie demonstrates again why he is one of the world’s great percussionists with a true sensitivity to modern music. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor John Storgårds performs wonderfully. This for me was a little different view of Rautavaara. Modicata was a wholly new experience while Towards the Horizon was more the composer I knew, but the results confirm why I still admire his work greatly. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, April 2012

Modificata makes an intriguing filler between Rautavaara’s latest, possibly last, pair of concertos. Given the valedictory nature of the music, the magical close fading out high into the air like a modern retake on The Lark Ascending, there is a temptation to see in this work the composer’s direct contemplation of the infinite—his equivalent perhaps of Shostakovich’s late quartets, but decidedly more positive and serene in expression (yet unblinkingly clear).

…the beautiful central Espressivo, which affords perfectly judged musical and textural contrast after the vigorous opening Pesante…sets up the dance-like finale superbly. Colin Currie…reprises that scintillating performance in a barnstorming account caught splendidly in Ondine’s superlative sound. John Storgårds and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra give exemplary support in the big-boned textures of both concertos but also shine on their own in Modificata.

This is an immensely noteworthy issue, not as a potential epitaph for Rautavaara the concerto-composer but for the quality of the music-making itself—and sure, let’s hope it does not prove the close of Rautavaara’s career as concerto-composer. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, March 2012

The orchestra evokes; the music [of "Modificata"] fills one with a certain wonder. Rautavaara paints in tones, as is clear even then, and one emerges from the work with a feeling of having received a musical revery and reflection that goes beyond the verbal. It’s a work of seriously beautiful and moving sounds.

The Cello Concerto No. 2 finds us in more declamatory territory, with soaring phrases that…have an emotive romantic quality. The cello part, well played by Truls Mork, functions in part as the lead melodic vehicle around which the orchestra responds and converses in lyrically mysterioso ways.

The percussion part [of "Incantations"] is no doubt difficult to play well and Colin Currie as the soloist does a great job phrasing the dynamic, ever-transforming part in ultra-musical terms…there…pervades a kind of wondrousness to the music that should appeal to many. There is a largoesque middle movement that brings in a more ruminative state, then the finale highlights agitated marimba work and restless strings, impressive drum and cymbal fanfares and fluttering winds. A rather restrained middle section has glowing vibraphone motor candenza passages.

These are impressive and pleasing works. Storgards, the Helsinki Philharmonic and the soloists do the music justice with sonorously impressive readings and enthusiastic verve.

Recommended for both samplers and completists. © 2012 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review Read complete review

Kevin Filipski
The Flip Side, March 2012

The moody, introspective but vibrant Cello Concerto No. 2 has a perfect advocate in soloist Truls Mork; the propulsive Percussion Concerto, titled Incantations, is played by another Rautavaara advocate, soloist Colin Currie. 1957’s Modificata, with an opening movement added in 2003, bridges his early 12-tone work and his later, staunchly post-romantic style. Conductor John Storgards ably leads the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. © 2012 The Flip Side Read complete review

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