Einojuhani Rautavaara, RAUTAVAARA: Cantus Arcticus / Piano Concerto No 1 / Symphony No 3

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Finland's senior composer was a student and heir apparent to the great Jean Sibelius, to whom he is inevitably compared whenever he spins out one of his trademark long, Romantic melodies. In the '60s, Rautavaara began experimenting with tape and electronic sounds, and in 1972 he created the remarkable Cantus Arcticus, a concerto where the soloist wasn't human, and wasn't even live. Using tapes of arctic birds that he recorded in northern Finland, he wrote a three-movement concerto where the orchestral music seems to grow organically out of the birdsongs. Winds are asked to retune a bit to accommodate the birds 'tuning; melodies take flight majestically and reappear later in slightly altered form, as if returning from a long journey. Rautavaara, by the way, has gone on to further success with a series of "Angel" pieces, like the monumental Symphony #7, called "Angel of Light," and concertos for more conventional soloists.