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ClassicsOnline Home » RAUTAVAARA, E.: Choral Works (Finnish Radio Chamber Choir, Nuoranne)
Stunning collection shows another side of the contemporary master
I have been saying for a long time now that Einojuhani Rautavaara will be remembered as one of Europe's - and, should be, the world's - greatest twentieth century composers.
By far, most of his greatest music was written between 1950 and 2005 or so. He is known for being a superb orchestrator with a very colorful harmonic palate and a very exotic use of instrumentation. Any of his orchestral works and any of his operas are a joy to listen to and challenge the listener in a curious, attention capturing way. What has become his "trademark" style of lush, evolving chordal progressions and a swirling, chromatic approach to melodic line is present in all his choral works as well.
This new compilation of his big works for chorus and orchestra is an absolute must-have for any fan of Rautavaara's music as well as anyone in love with new and lush choral writing and performance. Each of the works in this collection is a reissue from some of their important earlier releases on Ondine - whose recordings are always full, clear and sonically rewarding.
For those not familiar with Rautavaara's choral output, there are some of the nearly thirty works in this wonderful collection that one should go straight to. First, Vigilia is an hour long collection of the vespers and matins in devotion of John the Baptist and is a prime example of the composer's sacred writing. Fill with characteristically compelling harmonies and outstanding solo lines, the work for a capella chorus is beautiful and reverent throughout.
On the Last Frontier is a big, expansive work based on a short story by Edgar Allen Poe - of all things - on the discovery of rituals while traveling through mysterious landscapes and swirling fogs. Rautavaara read it in a Finnish translation when he was just a boy and the impact never left him; this work is dramatic and mysterious on its own.
The whole second disc of sacred works for mixed chorus is taken from Catholic and Greek orthodox texts. Especially worth listening to are the selections from the choral opera Marjatta matala neiti, and the atmospheric Marjatan jouluvirsi. The collection closes with the amazing True and False Unicorn. This is a very unusual - and very wonderful - setting of several poems on the nature, behaviours and powers of the mythical beast by English poet James Broughton. The chorus handles English diction pretty well and the text setting by Rautavaara is masterful.
Honestly, there is not a weak moment in this collection. Rautavaara is a brilliant composer and, from what interview footage I have seen, a gentle and soft-spoken man. His music is performed only very sparingly outside of Scandinavia - least of all in the United States - but deserves to be heard.more....
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