Rautavaara: The 8 Symphonies

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"Rautavaara's First Symphony has often been revised, from a four-movement original, down to two movements, and back up to the present three, which, as the composer notes, provides a more balanced sequence than previously. It was written when Prokofiev and Shostakovich were major influences, but with the passing of time the lyricism of the first movement now seems fully characteristic of Rautavaara. Adagio Celeste is yet another example (there are many in Rautavaara) of how music based on a 12-note theme can still be very beautiful and approachable. In this regard he recalls Swiss composer Frank Martin. It's a lovely work scored for small orchestra (the "string orchestra" designation on the tray card is incorrect). Once again the performances of this work and the symphony are all that anyone could ask, and the sonics, whether in stereo or multichannel formats, are fully up to the quality of the interpretations. A knockout, not to be missed!"

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Review of original release, Ondine 1064

"The Seventh Symphony’s opening Tranquillo evokes a calm though powerful atmosphere, with many Sibelian points of reference – most especially in terms of the flute writing at 5'45'' and, a little later, in recognizable echoes of the Largo fourth movement from Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony. The disruptive second movement leads to a Come un sogno third that suggests, at least initially, Cantus arcticus without the birds, whereas the closing Pesante-cantabile is more in line with the symphonic world of Alan Hovhaness, especially in its opening moments. The Angel idea originates in a series that already includes a number of other works (Angels and Visitations and Angel of Dusk, for instance), the reference being (as the composer himself explains) to “an archetype, one of mankind’s oldest traditions and perennial companions”. This Jungian axis is reflected in monolithic chords, ethereal harmonic computations (invariably broad and high-reaching) and an unselfconscious mode of musical development. Readers schooled in the more contemplative works of Gorecki, Part and Tavener will likely respond to this spatially generous essay, though Rautavaara’s language is more a celebration of nature and her works than of any specific religious ritual."

-- Gramophone, 6/1996
Review of original release, Ondine 869

"I had the pleasure of witnessing the New York premiere of the Eighth Symphony, a work that despite much that is lovely, struck me as a bit short-winded in the slow movement and texturally undifferentiated in the finale. Hearing this new recording convinces me that this impression stemmed largely from Wolfgang Sawallisch's monochromatic interpretation. In Leif Segerstam's hands the piece now has the necessary range of contrast: he shapes the soaring lyrical lines of the first movement into large, coherent paragraphs (listen to how effortlessly the climax about eight minutes into the first movement blossoms forth), then blasts through the scherzo with virtuosic abandon, lets the gorgeous yet brief slow movement really breathe, and finds more coloristic variety in the grandly imposing finale than the live performance ever suggested. Subtitled "The Journey", the work does indeed move purposefully from the mysterious murmuring of its opening to its triumphant conclusion, and makes a worthy successor to the already famous "Angel of Light" Seventh Symphony.

Ondine's Rautavaara series has revealed to music lovers one marvelous work after another, and with each new release Rautavaara's stature as one of the greatest composers working today only increases. It's hard to think of another figure whose every new piece so rewards the attentive listener while at the same time uncompromisingly proclaims the author's unique musical voice. If you haven't had the chance to get to know the music of this exceptional creative spirit, the present release, magnificently performed and recorded, offers an ideal place to start."

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Review of original release, Ondine 978

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 10, 2005

  • Catalog Number: ODE 1145-2Q

  • UPC: 761195114520

  • Label: Ondine

  • Number of Discs: 4

  • Composer: Einojuhani Rautavaara

  • Conductor: Leif Segerstam, Max Pommer, Mikko Franck

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Belgian National Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra