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Einojuhani Rautavaara: Before The Icons

Album Summary

>Rautavaara, Einojuhani : Before the Icons, for orchestra
>Rautavaara, Einojuhani : A Tapestry of Life, for orchestra
Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

"Here we have one of the greatest living composers working in the full inspiration of his mature style, performed and recorded with world-class passion and intensity. It really doesn't get any better. Before the Icons began life as a piano suite in 1955. In creating this orchestral version Rautavaara separated some of the individual numbers with interludes for string orchestra ("Prayers") and added a concluding "Amen". The music is wide-ranging and thoroughly approachable, though never cloying or cheap. Most of the "icon" movements feature the sound of bells as a unifying timbre, though the music isn't at all "churchly" in a conventional sense. It's a moving, even noble work, though it does have its lighter moments (the third movement: "Two Village Saints"). A Tapestry of Life (2007) has four movements lasting a bit more than 24 minutes. The second piece, "Halcyon Days", is stunningly lovely, while the concluding "Final Polonaise" builds to a powerful, ominous close. Each of the four movements is well contrasted and expressively affecting. It's great to have the opportunity to hear this music while it's still new, and as mentioned above the performance by the Helsinki Philharmonic under Leif Segerstam is first rate. If you care even mildly about contemporary music, or just good classical music, you owe it to yourself to hear this disc." -Classics Today (10/10)

Einojuhani Rautavaara is recognized as one of the most notable Finnish composers after Jean Sibelius. His recordings on Ondine have been bestsellers and garnered numerous awards (including a 1997 Grammy nomination for Angel of Light). This CD features the mystical composer's latest orchestral works, two poignant testimonies of a mature artistic, spiritual and human personality. The uplifting orchestral Before the Icons (2005) is based on the earlier piano cycle Icons and therefore spans over Rautavaara's entire career. The work drew its inspiration from a book of Orthodox icons. Rautavaara wrote A Tapestry of Life in 2007 after an almost miraculous recovery from an acute illness. Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra build on their long-time pedigrees of performing their compatriot's music.

"'A Tapestry of Life,' poetic reflections on human existence, is more familiar in style, with great swooping and soaring string figures, harp glissandos, radiant brass fanfares, emphatic drum-strokes and hints in woodwind of the composer's beloved birdsong. Indeed, in its fluently undulating lines and philosophical moods, Tapestry displays strong kinship with the bird-oriented Cantus Arcticus. Rautavaara still divides opinion, almost inevitable with a modernist in flight from serialism who moreover has the misfortune to become popular; but there's no doubt about the beauty of the soundworlds he creates. -BBC Music Magazine

WGBH 99.5
Einojuhani Rautavaara is as important to today's Finland as Sibelius was to yesterday's. The Helsinki Philharmonic has now recorded his orchestral work called "A Tapestry of Life", written in 2007. It happens that I heard the premiere of this piece in Helsinki. The composer was sitting just a few rows ahead of me and I kept him fixed in the corner of my eye. He seemed deeply satisfied. I heard three performances and grew fonder of it with each one. Rautavaara had only recently recovered from a burst aorta (most people don't recover!), and yet, at 79, he had a kind of towering warmth. This is a CD that deserves many focused listening sessions.

Gramophone Magazine
Rautavaara's musical voice remains fully audible although British listeners may hear resonances in places of Vaughan Williams-like modality.


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Works Details

>Rautavaara, Einojuhani : Before the Icons, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Leif Segerstam
  • Running Time: 23 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1955

>Rautavaara, Einojuhani : A Tapestry of Life, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Leif Segerstam
  • Running Time: 23 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 2007