Colin Currie / Truls Mørk / John Storgårds

Rautavaara: Modificata; Incantations; Toward the Horizon

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins

The works on this CD span over 50 years of Einojuhani Rautavaara's career, the earliest, Modificata from 1957, and the latest, Percussion Concerto, "Incantations," from 2008-2009. The album is filled out by another late piece, Cello Concerto No. 2, "Towards the Horizon," from 2008. It's intriguing to hear how much has changed and how much has held steady in his musical expression. "Prævariata," the first movement of Modificata, was the first Finnish serial work. The pitch choices may have been determined serially, but instead of the edgy angularity of much serial music of the era, this piece is full of the Romantic, sweeping lines that characterize Rautavaara's most familiar style; in a game of Guess the Composer, an astute listener might easily suggest Rautavaara, based on the use of the kinds of grand, lyrical gestures that have persisted throughout his career. With the two concertos, fans of the composer are in more familiar territory. Both pieces have evocative titles that suggest mystery and the unknown, and are essentially lyrical and strongly melodic. In the Percussion Concerto that means ample use of marimba and vibraphone. In both works Rautavaara conjures up images of mysterious wind-swept landscapes with a signature device: passages of swirling activity, often in the woodwinds, coursing over a slow-moving bass and under a soaring, lyrical melody. John Storgårds leads the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in atmospheric and energetic reading of the scores. The concertos feature the soloists for whom they were written. Cellist Truls Mørk plays with a sweet, singing, intense tone that suits the character of the concerto well. Scottish percussionist Colin Currie manages the composer's demanding score with ease and panache. Ondine, sound is clean, detailed, and nicely ambient.

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