Let's start with the "filler", because it's a very interesting one. Rautavaara's The Fiddlers originally was composed as a piano suite, as played here, and later arranged for string orchestra. For this performance, a fine one by Paavali Jumppanen, Pekka Kuusisto offers solo violin versions of the original folk tunes that Rautavaara selected for his suite. The result is fascinating; the tunes are about what you'd expect--robust, folk-fiddle melodies--but Rautavaara extracts a vast amount of variety and emotional nuance from them, using the basic material in often surprising ways. Check out the second tune, Kopsin Jonas, for example, as it enters evocatively in the bass over a swirling treble ostinato. Great stuff!
Read more Rautavaara has composed very little for violin and piano, or (in the case of Variétude) for solo violin. There are mostly occasional works, but they are no less finely crafted for that. The excitingly brief Dithyrambos and Notturno e danza deliver what their titles suggest, while the other pieces are all nostalgic mood-pieces, often very beautiful. The major work here is Lost Landscapes, a four-movement violin sonata in all but name, with each movement offering a portrait of one of the composer's youthful haunts: Tanglewood, Ascona, Rainergasse 11, Vienna, and West 23rd Street, NY.
Kuusisto, as we have every reason to expect, plays very well, with plenty of color in his tone; and as already suggested, Jumppanen also does an excellent job, whether as accompanist or taking over the spotlight. The sonics are generally excellent, well balanced, and perhaps just a bit bright in the violin's upper register. Ondine's Rautavaara recordings really are major additions to the contemporary music scene. This one is no exception.