EINOJUHANI RAUTAVAARA (1928-2016): In the Beginning, Lost Landscapes for Violin and Orchestra (both World Premiere Recordings), Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra, Deux Sérénades for Violin and Orchestra (compl. Kalevi Aho [b.1949]).

Catalogue Number: 07Y008

Label: Ondine

Reference: ODE1405-2

Format: CD

Price: $16.98

Description: Many composers might aspire to depart this life to the strains of so gorgeous a swansong. In 2004 Rautavaara came very close to death from a serious heart vessel rupture, and after his lengthy and miraculous recovery his final creative period spanned the final decade of his life and produced a number of significant works. In his creatively fulfilled old age, Rautavaara fully embraced a neo-romantic vocabulary of the utmost lushness and warmth, writing works of great eloquence, limned in the autumnal colors of nostalgia, remembrance, and the sense of the contented farewell of a happy soul, unafraid to go gentle into that good night. The ravishingly beautiful Fantasia, his penultimate completed work, is rhapsodic and lyrical, with a restrainedly elegiac mood and a muted climax of suppressed yet vigorous passion. Written to commission at the very end of the composer’s life, In the Beginning is a concert overture of vigorous, sweeping strength, suggesting a "lost" Sibelius tone poem. For a final work, the title is ambiguous and provocative; perhaps the composer had in mind a mystical "new beginning" in another realm? The work's surging, elemental optimism seems to support this theory. The oddly abrupt ending might suggest that Rautavaara had some idea of a conjoined second piece, but no evidence exists to support this conjecture, and the composer’s widow insisted that the piece was complete in itself. Time ran out for Rautavaara, who was unable to complete the orchestration of the Deux sérénades before his death; his former student from the 1970s Kalevi Aho was engaged for this task and to prepare the works for performance, which he achieved to the manner born. Both Serenades are steeped in the warmth of melancholy, loving nostalgia; moreover, both contain references to earlier works in the composer’s output. More than passive recollections on yellowed album-leaves, though, both evoke the memory of youthful passion, and the the second ends with a burst of optimistic vitality. Nostalgia is built into the Lost Landscapes, musical impressions - strongly emotional as well as scenic - of four places where Rautavaara spent important periods of his youth, during his ‘years of pilgrimage’ studying abroad; "Tanglewood", "Ascona", "Rainergasse 11, Vienna" and "West 23rd. St., NY". Originally written with piano accompaniment in 2005, after the composer’s near-death experience (which certainly accounts for the prevailing mood of retrospective longing), Rautavaara orchestrated them in 2013-14. The lushly verdant Massachusetts landscape gives way to imposing, melancholy Swiss scenery, and then to the haunted late romanticism of a decaying Baroque palace in Vienna where Rautavaara lodged in 1955. The New York address evokes no harsh, gritty urban landscape, but rather, a young man’s enthusiastic response to the boundless possibilities presented by a bustling, vital city. Simone Landsma, Malmö Symphony Orchestra; Robert Trevino.


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