Einojuhani Rautavaara at 80 – over 50 years together with the HPO
Einojuhani Rautavaara, internationally one of the most highly acclaimed and renowned Finnish composers of all times, will be 80 on October 9 this year. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra is pleased and honoured to have worked with Rautavaara for over half a century, performing and recording music by him more than 200 times including 20 world premieres in all.
The HPO has, among others, premiered his Second Symphony (1957), the orchestral Anadyomene (1968), the Cello Concerto (1968), the Sixth Symphony Vincentiana (1992), the Third Piano Concerto (1999) and the Adagio celeste (2000) for string orchestra, and in recent years, particularly, it has given the first performance in Finland of new orchestral works by him. In May 2002 the HPO put on a Rautavaara Festival masterminded by Mikko Franck presenting a cross-section of the composer’s output.
On Wednesday October 8 (with a repeat on October 9) the HPO under Olli Mustonen is to give the first performance in Finland of Rautavaara’s new A Tapestry of Life, a joint commission from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Helsinki Philharmonic. It was premiered in Auckland in April this year under the young Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen. Leif Segerstam will be recording it with the HPO for Ondine at the end of October.
The HPO discs for Ondine of works by Einojuhani Rautavaara have won great international acclaim. In 1997 the symphony Angel of Light won a Cannes Classical Award and was nominated for a Grammy. The following year a Cannes Classical Award went to the CD of Angels and Visitations. On the Last Frontier (an HPO commission), The Journey, Garden of Spaces (also including the Cantus Arcticus and Clarinet Concerto), Song of My Heart (2006), starring baritone Gabriel Suovanen and the Manhattan Trilogy (2008) have subsequently been added to the HPO’s Rautavaara collection.. The third Piano Concerto, Gift of Dreams, commissioned by the soloist, Vladimir Ashkenazy, is another HPO-Rautavaara release on the Ondine label.
Rautavaara has been prolific in a wide range of genres: operas, symphonies, concertos, solo works, vocal and chamber music. In the course of his long career he has experimented with the most varied of styles and modes of expression, but the core element of his art is not so much style as his firm faith in his inner visions, for they, above all, determine the nature of the music. Quoting Thomas Mann, Rautavaara says that each work has its own metaphysical will, and in his famous personal definition he describes himself as a midwife helping music into the world.
Of his new Tapestry Rautavaara says:
“As a young boy I was presented with a book of poetry by Södergran and later I set several poems from it for chorus. Stars Swarming is a surrealistic night vision, where stars keep falling in the garden until the lawn is full of splinters. In Halcyon Days the impulse comes from a simple, monotonous repetition of a triplet. From this background a melody is born, a slowly ascending cantabile. Passionate, even violent moments are met, but they also seem to belong to those happy days.
”Sighs and Tears have their share in the tapestry of life as well. Cor anglais and oboe lament, and violins join them in a wide, plaintive song – until woodwinds with two harps build a colourful background for the growing cantilena. The Last Polonaise is like a variation on this solemn dance, which seems to have a special significance for me, as a symbol of finality. My opera The House of the Sun ended in a polonaise, and in Rasputin a polonaise opens the dramatic story of the end of the tsar.”