Vocal music has always been an important part of Einojuhani
Rautavaaraís output. That said, one is probably more likely to call
to mind his work in the field of opera and the major choral work Vigilia,
before his contribution to the song repertoire. As the composer points
out in his own useful booklet notes, song was with him from a very early
age. His father was a singer as was his cousin. Song was often the starting
point from which grew larger, instrumental and orchestral works.
Perhaps it is significant then that the majority of
song cycles on this disc are from the early years of Rautavaaraís career.
Half of them having been written by the age of thirty. The latest is
from the middle 1980s although even this cycle, In My Loverís Garden,
sample returns to texts of songs
now lost, that were written during the composerís youth. In this particular
case the Nietzschean words are by Edith Södergran. The style and
content of the poetry set in the other cycles ranges dramatically from
Shakespeare to Rainer Maria Rilke (Fünf Sonette an Orpheus
sample and Die Liebenden sample
), via the Finnish lyric poet Aaro Hellaakoski (Dream World sample)
and ultimately to the words of the composer himself in Matka
(The Trip sample).
Rautavaara is no stranger to producing his own texts.
He has written the librettos to all of his own operas. The reason that
The Trip stands out from the other cycles on the disc has more
to do with its considerable stylistic contrast. Inspired by a solitary
journey to New York where Rautavaara had formerly undertaken youthful
studies at the Julliard School, the composer set out to write something
consciously "different". In the opening song he creates a
nightmarish world of unsettling atmosphere with clusters and sudden
stark outbursts in the piano part. Although the two central songs give
some respite the final song harks back to the darkness of the opening.
Turning the clock back twenty-five years from The
Trip, both the assuredness of Rautavaaraís technique and the essential
characteristics of his melodic and harmonic language are evident from
the outset in the Three Sonnets of Shakespeare . Although the
composer was later to adopt a more academic, dodecaphonic style, the
familiar chordal progressions of the piano in the opening bars will
immediately have enthusiasts of the composer feeling at home. sample
The bars following the entry of the singer even give a fleeting
flavour of the modality of Vaughan Williams although it is Britten that
the composer acknowledges as his influence and in particular the Seven
Sonnets of Michelangelo. The first two songs of this cycle, That
time of year and When I do count the clock sample
are both wonderfully atmospheric settings before the total contrast
of a somewhat barmy but fun-filled setting of Shall I compare thee.
All of the other cycles have something to offer. The
Rilke settings are more overtly serious and personal perhaps, but the
dream-like mysticism of the opening song of Godís Way sample
and the charm of In My Loverís Garden sample
all delight in their differing ways.
In preparation for this recording Rautavaara has made
revisions to a number of the songs, including transpositions where appropriate,
to take full advantage of the astonishing basso profundo voice of Jyrki
Korhonen. It is indeed an extraordinary voice and Korhonenís first entry
in his profundo register, mid-way through the second song of Dream
World (Viatonten valssi) had me reaching for the remote control
to immediately hear it again. His subterranean tones seem to permeate
these songs perfectly. Although there is just an occasional waver of
the voice he delivers performances that show both sensitivity to the
music and the texts. Ilkka Paananen provides able and carefully judged
In conclusion, a highly enjoyable disc that is strongly
recommended to both Rautavaara aficionados and anyone with an interest
in modern song.