Rautavaara’s late works continue to reveal the hand of a master with a completely assured technique and a serenely confident personal style. Towards the Horizon, his Cello Concerto No. 2, is an introspective, poetic work cast in large-scale variation form. Like so many modern concertos, its quiet ending may limit its chances of becoming popular in concert, but the quality of the music is never in doubt and the melodic material is truly memorable. Rautavaara’s Percussion Concerto, subtitled “Incantations,” opens with an arresting chorale that returns both at the end of the first movement (sound sample below), and in the work’s final pages. I have often said that percussion concertos, conceptually speaking, are almost impossible to writeRead more because of the inherent limitations of the solo instrument(s), especially if (as here) the composer’s style is essentially tonal and melodic. To his credit, Rautavaara apportions the majority of the solo writing to vibraphone and marimba, with contrasting episodes given to untuned percussion. The result, effectively varied timbrally, works very well; even the concluding cadenza fits logically into its place in the finale, and does not outstay its welcome. Time will tell if “the percussion concerto problem,” if you accept that there is one, has been solved definitively. Either way, this is a very enjoyable listen.
Modificata belongs to Rautavaara’s early, twelve-tone period (the late 1950s) and while it’s understandable that he takes pride in some of these early pieces, there is no point in pretending that they are as characterful or successful as his later works. Even here, though, Rautavaara fashions distinctive melodic material for each of the piece’s three movements–the quick finale is particularly exciting and successful. The first movement seems to owe a little something to the first of Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra, but especially in this context, it would be difficult to make the case for this music being as expressive and interesting as the two concertos. Still, it’s good to have this audible measure of the distance that Rautavaara has travelled over the course of his career. As with all the releases in Ondine’s ongoing series dedicated to this composer, the performances are excellent. Both concertos are performed by their dedicatees, while the Helsinki Philharmonic under John Storgards does its usual fine job. So, for that matter, do Ondine’s engineers. Very recommendable.
Modificataby Einojuhani Rautavaara Conductor:
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th/21st Century Written: 1957/2003
Concerto for Percussion "Incantations"by Einojuhani Rautavaara Performer:
Colin Currie (Percussion)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 21st Century Written: 2008
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Defies My Musical Biases!July 3, 2018By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"I'll begin these comments by admitting to an inherent bias against modernistic trends in classical music. I have generally felt that compositions which, for example, use heavy dissonance, atonality, even twelve-tone techniques or minimalism, tend to rob the music of what I believe it should offer- that is, the opportunity to 'connect' with the listener in ways that are emotionally and intellectually satisfying and uplifting. In short, I have found too many works of recent vintage (say from the 1950's and beyond) simply fail to deliver, leaving the listener struggling and only slightly engaged, if at all. Now, having said all this, does it amount to a universal indictment of modern classical music? No, and Finland's late, great composer Einojuhani Rautavaara offers proof positive that modern classical compositions can (and do) have merit, even when employing compositional techniques that, in less capable hands, would produce unattractive results. The Ondine disk under consideration here presents three Rautavaara works which date from within the past 15 years, 2 of them in fact being only 10 years old. I recommend an initial reading of the very informative CD notes, which will explain Rautavaara's varying stylistic approaches. This will certainly prepare the listener for 3 different works, all of them 'modernistic' in character, but which do what I contend many recent works fail to do- treat the listener and audience with respect and offer a really intriguing and satisfying listening experience. There may be a certain level of mysticism detectable in his Second Cello Concerto and his unique and imaginative Percussion Concerto; if so, this otherworldliness only serves to amplify the attractiveness of Rautavaara's musical vision. The middle work on this recording, Modificata, is a 3 movement suite based on the 12 tone technique, originally composed in the 1950's, but substantially revised in the early 21st century. Despite the fact that it is structured around the gruesome 12 tone system, Modificata offers a valuable example of what can be done in the hands of a top notch composer. Conductor John Storgards leads the superb Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in an imaginative and altogether exciting program, with soloists Truls Mork (cellist) and Colin Currie (percussion) taking center stage in the cello and percussion concertos, respectively. In summary, I'll probably always be somewhat skeptical and cautious concerning 'new' classical works, sort of a 'Show Me/Prove Me Wrong' attitude. Occasionally, newly conceived compositions do just that, and this fine Ondine recording, as 'modern' as it is, nevertheless deserves plenty of kudos. It's good, and I'm pleased to give it a solid recommendation."Report Abuse