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Guy Rickards
Gramophone, October 2011

A fascinating collection casting light on Finland’s most eminent living composer

Rautavaara’s music for violin and piano occupies a byway in his output, with no really outstanding work like a sonata. His fluency in writing for solo violin is demonstrated by three competition test pieces: Dithyrambos (1970), Variétude for solo violin (1974, later arranged for guitar)—both for the International Sibelius Competitions—and Notturno e danza (1993) for Espoo’s Juvenalia Music Institute. Musically satisfying as each is, Rautavaara thought enough of the Notturno to base a movement in his Angel of Light Symphony on it the following year.

Lost Landscapes (2005) is Rautavaara’s largest violin-and-piano duo by far, a wistful evocation of four places where he had studied in the mid-1950s: Tanglewood, Ascona, Vienna and New York, although the volatile “Wall Street” finale does finally break the prevailingly nostalgic mood. The brief Summer Thoughts (2008, but a reworking of an earlier piece) restores the calm but is too insubstantial for a successful title-track. April Lines is more turbulent, reflecting its chequered history.

Kuusisto and Jumppanen are persuasive executants—Rautavaara’s challenging technical demands are thrown off with élan—but the violin’s often edgy intonation does not sit well with the dreamier inspirations, with Lost Landscapes suffering especially in this respect. Where the performers are at their best is in The Fiddlers, Rautavaara’s vivacious folk-music piano suite (1952), delivered in lively and fully competitive fashion by Jumppanen (rivalling his eminent stablemate Izumi Tateno), and prefaced here by Kuusisto playing unaccompanied the folk tunes on which it was based, in Samuel Rinta-Nikkola’s sparkling original notations. Top-notch sound.

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