Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rautavaara: New Concertos from a Finnish Master

Rautavaara: Towards the Horizon; Modificata; Incantations 
Truls Mork, cello
Colin Currie, percussion
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra; John Storgards, conductor

This new release sheds some light onto Einojuhani Rautavaara's growth as a composer. The outer two works are  recent concertos, composed in 2008/2009. But the middle work, Modificata, was written in 1957, when Rautavaara  was just 29 years old  and very much enamored with serial composition.

The current version, though, is his 2003 revision of the work, which smoothed out some of the jagged edges. Still, it's a very stark and aggressive-sounding work, especially when compared to the concertos that flank it.

Rautavaara's second cello concerto, "Towards the Horizon" is a single-movement work full of expression. The cello seems to float along over top of an orchestral ocean of ethereal harmonies.  As the title suggests, there's a sense of motion towards a destination that's always out of reach. And while the cello part isn't that challenging technically, to meaningfully convey all the emotion written into the score requires top-notch musicianship. And Truls Mork fills that role admirably.

"Incantations" is a percussion concerto composed for Colin Currie. Currie met with Rautavaara during the composing of the work, and created his own cadenza. Having Currie perform on this recording makes the concerto come alive. All the hallmarks of Rautavaara's current style are there; the stacked chords, the warm orchestration and the large musical gestures to which the solo percussionist provides additional rhythmic impetus. Most of the the time, Currie's playing melodic percussion instruments, but even when he's not, Rautavaara's written the work so it sounds like he is.

This is fine addition to Ondine's catalog of Rautavaara recordings.

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