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Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA(b. 1928)
Cello Concerto No. 2, Towards the Horizon (2008-2009) [21:16]
Modificata (1957/2003) [17:15]
Percussion Concerto, Incantations (2008) [23:44]
Truls Mørk (cello); Colin Currie (percussion)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds
rec. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, 15 January 2011 (Percussion Concerto);
Music Centre, 10-12 August 2011 (Cello Concerto, Modificata). 24-bit
ONDINE ODE 1178-2 [62:16]
Fans of all things Finnish will be sorely tempted by this disc
of Rautavaara’s music; not only are these concertos world
premiere recordings they’re also played by their respective
dedicatees. Leading the charge is John Storgårds, who
did such a splendid job co-ordinating the disparate elements
in Kalevi Aho’s mountainside monster, the Luosto
The latter was one of my Recordings of the Year for 2008,
and I urge anyone who hasn’t heard it to do so at once.
These soloists need no introduction; the Norwegian cellist Truls
Mørk has carved out a distinguished career for himself
and the Scottish percussionist Colin Currie is doing the same.
I remember being most impressed by the latter’s performances
in the 1994 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition
and wondering when I’d hear from him again. Well, that
time has now arrived; indeed, I can’t remember being so
eager to hear a new CD that within minutes it was in the player
and I’d pressed play.
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 Rautavaara's 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
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.
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