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Einojuhani Rautavaara: Choral Works / Finnish Radio Chamber Choir & SO

Notes & Reviews:

After releasing two other boxes with Einojuhani Rautaavara's 8 Symphonies and 12 Concertos, Ondine is pleased to announce the new release of another 4 CD collector's box with Rautavaara's Choral Works. Featuring sacred as well as secular works, this release shows the diversity in terms of style, expression and content in the choral works Einojuhani Rautavaara has composed. They have brought him the status of the most significant living composer of choral music in Finland. Starting with first choral compositions in the 1950s, this is nowadays the most extensive category in his output. Rautavaara is since Sibelius perhaps the most internationally known and certainly most record selling living composer, with numerous international awards. These recordings feature the two mostly acclaimed Finnish mixed choirs, the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir and the Finnish Philharmonic Chorus, as well as the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and conductors Timo Nuoranne, Eric-Olof Söderström and Leif Segerstam. The recordings have been previously released by Ondine to international popular and critical acclaim.

MusicWeb International, April 2013
The performances, mainly by the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir, are consistently very fine and the recorded sound is excellent throughout...a compelling release that continues Ondine's doughty championship of Finland's leading living composer.


Stunning collection shows another side of the contemporary master
I have been saying for a long time now that Einojuhani Rautavaara will be remembered as one of Europe's - and, should be, the world's - greatest twentieth century composers. By far, most of his greatest music was written between 1950 and 2005 or so. He is known for being a superb orchestrator with a very colorful harmonic palate and a very exotic use of instrumentation. Any of his orchestral works and any of his operas is are a joy to listen to and challenge the listener in a curious, attention capturing way. What has become his "trademark" style of lush, evolving chordal progressions and a swirling, chromatic approach to melodic line is present in all his choral works as well. This new compilation of his big works for chorus and chorus and orchestra is an absolute must have for any fan of Rautavaara's music as well as anyone in love with new and lush choral writing and performance. Each of the works in this collection is a reissue from some of their important earlier releases on Ondine - whose recordings are always full, clear and sonically rewarding. For those not familiar with Rautavaara's choral output, there are some of the nearly thirty works in this wonderful collection that one should go straight to. First, "Vigilia" is an hour long collection of the vespers and matins in devotion of John the Baptist and is a prime example of the composer's sacred writing. Fill with characteristically compelling harmonies and outstanding solo lines, the work for a capella chorus is beautiful and reverent throughout. "On the Last Frontier" is a big, expansive work based on a short story by Edgar Allen Poe - of all things - on the discovery of rituals while traveling through mysterious landscapes and swirling fogs. Rautavaara read it in a Finnish translation when he was just a boy and the impact never left him; this work is dramatic and mysterious on its own. The whole second disc of sacred works for mixed chorus, taken from Catholic and Greek orthodox texts. Especially worth listening to are the selections from the choral "opera" 'Marjatta matala neiti, especially the atmospheric "Marjatan jouluvirsi". The collection close with the amazing "True and False Unicorn". This is a very unusual - and very wonderful - setting of several poems on the nature, behaviours and powers of the mythical beast by English poet James Broughton. The chorus handles English diction pretty well and the text setting by Rautavaara is masterful. Honestly, there is not a weak moment in this collection. Rautavaara is a brilliant composer and, from what interview footage I have seen, a gentle and soft-spoken man. His music is performed only very sparingly outside of Scandinavia - least of all in the United States - but deserves to be heard by everyone. Finnish is a beautiful and consonant language that many will find similar to Norwegian. This composer is brilliant and thank heavens for Ondine and other record labels that allow us to hear his music. The performances here by the Finnish Radio Choir, Finnish Radio Chamber Chorus, Finnish Philharmonic Chorus, Finnish Radio Symphony and the Helsinki Philharmonic are wonderful and I recommend this collection heartily!
Submitted on 11/13/12 by Dan Coombs 
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