Thursday, May 6, 2010

Einojuhani Rautavaara, Orchestral Mystic

Composers who were musical mystics? Of course, we have Hildegard of Bingen, Mozart of "Don Giovanni" and the Masonic Music, Dukas, Scriabin, Ives ("The Unanswered Question," etc.), Messaien and today we have Einojuhani Rautavaara.

A new release of two of his orchestral pieces (Ondine) shows us a composer fully mature and stylistically singular. The Helsinki Philharmonic under Leif Segerstam give marvelously luminescent performances of Rautavaara's "Before the Icons" (1955/2005) and "A Tapestry of Life" (2007). The recording convinced me that Rautavaara is a contemporary original.

The music isn't exactly modern sounding, but it doesn't sound old either. There is a thickly rhapsodic quality to the music that does not ooze sentiment as much as map out a rather mysterious universe of affirming sound. It is quite beautiful, and not at all mawkish. Rautavaara orchestrates with thick impasto, vibrant blocks of color. It's like no other contemporary music, really. Grab this disk. Highly recommended.

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