Classical CD Reviews
EINOJUHANI RAUTAVAARA: Cello Concerto No. 2; Modificata; Percussion Concerto – Truls Mørk, cello/Colin Currie, percussion/Helsinski Philharmonic Orch./John Storgårds – Ondine
Published on April 9, 2012
EINOJUHANI RAUTAVAARA: Cello Concerto No. 2, “Towards the Horizon”; Modificata; Percussion Concerto, “Incantations” – Truls Mørk, cello/Colin Currie, percussion/Helsinski Philharmonic Orch./John Storgårds – Ondine Records ODE 1178-2 (Distr. by Naxos), 70:31 ****:
As the booklet notes by fellow Finnish musician and critic Kimmo Korhonen point out, Einojuhani Rautavaara’s music has evolved quite a bit from its serialist beginnings some sixty years ago to its ethereal and tonal present rendition. This wonderful new disc from Ondine illustrates the point. 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 “horizon” of the title could be the composer’s view of a direction in which he sees his music moving; perhaps the evolution of his twelve concerti for a variety of instruments and this being – perhaps – his last. The sound is lush and very picturesque. The middle section being variations of the opening material and the last section being at first agitated, confused, searching for direction. It could also be that the “horizon” is a reference in simile to the final closing, high, soaring cello line – towards a musical horizon toward which the previous material has been pointing. No matter, 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 three movement suite, this is intended to depict in musical terms the philosophical “dilemma of St. Augustine and Calvin”. In this case, what is, essentially, a twelve tone row serves as a motive for the “factor” of religious philosophy and providing the forms through which this factor can be expressed. The three movements (in this 2003 version); “Praevariata”, “Meditatio” and “Affectio” are based both in theory as well as stylistically on the music of Alban Berg; who – in turn – was an inspiration source for Rautavaara’s teacher, Wladimir Vogel. This is a very interesting piece, to be sure. I am not at all sure that this period for the composer’s output would have made me the huge fan I am now; in part because his present voice is so uniquely compelling. It is, however, 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. In fact, keyboard percussion is the principal timbre used throughout. The three-movement work evokes a variety of moods and, as the composer’s intent, sounds like a shamanistic percussion ceremony. 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.