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Rautavaara: Choral Music / Burton, Schola Cantorum Of Oxford

Rautavaara / Schola Cantorum Of Oxford / Burton
Release Date: 01/12/2010 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67787  
Composer:  Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



RAUTAVAARA Suite de Lorca. Canción de nuestro tiempo. Canticum Mariae virginis. Magnificat. Our Joyful’st Feast. Halavan himmeän alla. Die erste Elegie James Burton, cond; Schola Cantorum HYPERION 67787 (72:19 Text and Translation)


At the risk of becoming tedious, I will observe again that this is a remarkable period for the writing of choral music. Here is yet another disc of extraordinarily beautiful choral works, this time by one of Finland’s preeminent composers, Read more Einojuhani Rautavaara. The performances are by one of Hyperion’s outstanding house choruses, the Schola Cantorum of Oxford, under the direction of former chorister turned inspiring conductor James Burton. Is there any end to the outstanding choruses and choir directors in England?


These works are highly expressive, mostly spiritual in nature, and in addition to Rautavaara’s Latin settings, the Magnificat and Canticum Mariae virginis , there are settings of poetry by Lorca, Rilke, Shakespeare, and near contemporary George Wither, with only one work in Finnish, Halavan himmeän alla (In the Shade of the Willow), with texts by Aleksis Kivi. Images of death and pain predominate, reflecting the composer’s somber preoccupation with disturbing events in our time. Even the joy of Christmas is seen as a respite in the weight of worldly care. This is not jubilant music then, ecstatic in the style of Lauridsen or even of ?ukaszewski, though it is closer in terms of harmonic language to the latter. In fact, though neoromantic by his own defining—and the music is often richly colored and emotionally generous—Rautavaara often uses 12-tone rows as basic compositional material and is deeply concerned with structural clarity. Several of the works use a favored technique of the composer, establishing a rhythmic pattern in one section of the choir, often gently dissonant, while weaving a long-breathed melody around that core with the other sections. The result is light-years away from cold academic modernism, but it is definitely forward-looking and it will not satisfy anyone who confuses beauty and prettiness. My only possible caveat would be that this release does not begin to explore the composer’s full range of choral music. It is, however, an excellent exploration of one aspect of that art and more than varied enough to assure interest throughout.


All but one of these works, the English-language Christmas work Our Joyful’st Feast , have been recorded before. The Finnish Ondine label in particular has been very supportive of the native son, and all the other works have been brilliantly recorded for Ondine by the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir. Accentus and Eric Ericsson have recorded a superb Die erste Elegie and Paul Hillier and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir a wrenching Lorca Suite . This does not diminish the attractiveness of this disc a bit. I was impressed—but not without reservations—with the last recording I heard by James Burton and this chorus, a program of works by Randall Thompson. No real complaints this time; the singing is virtuoso. A couple of the soloists are a bit white of tone, especially when compared with soloists in other recordings, but this is nitpicking. As a program, these performances are the equal of any other in energy, beauty of tone, and subtlety of expression. Often it is Burton who finds the most satisfying reading. Hyperion has provided top-quality engineering. The music is sublime; this simply must be heard.


FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

1.
Suite de Lorca, Op. 72 by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; Finland 
2.
Cancion de nuestro tiempo by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; Finland 
3.
Canticum Mariae Virginis by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; Finland 
4.
Magnificat by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979; Finland 
5.
Our joyful'st feast by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Period: 20th Century 
6.
In the Shade of the Willow by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998; Finland 
7.
Die erste Elegie by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  James Burton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; Finland 

Featured Sound Samples

Suite de Lorca: I. Canción de jinete

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