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Rautavaara: Lost Landscapes etc

Simone Lamsma (violin); Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Robert Trevino (Ondine)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Rautavaara
Lost Landscapes; Fantasia; In the Beginning; Serenades (arr. Kalevi Aho)
Simone Lamsma (violin); Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Robert Trevino
Ondine ODE 1405-2   56:36 mins

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Selected by Sibelius for a Tanglewood scholarship in 1955, the experience proved inspirational for Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016). What he called ‘years of pilgrimage’ in America and Europe ensued, furnishing the young Finn with a wide idiomatic range that would later coalesce into the rich neo-Romanticism for which he became widely celebrated.

The pieces here date from the very end of Rautavaara’s life by which time, having survived near-fatal illness in 2004, he had become increasingly nostalgic for that formative period and more. Hence Lost Landscapes – recorded for the first time in its 2015 version with orchestra – rightly lends its title to an album in which vivid emotional colours hold sway.

All except one are concertante works for solo violin, tautly and sweetly performed by soloist Simone Lamsma with fine support from the Malmö Symphony Orchestra under conductor Robert Trevino. Lost Landscapes itself is the most conventionally concerto-like, its four contrasting movements recalling student locations – of which Switzerland’s No. II ‘Ascona’ produces the most satisfyingly dissonance-peppered bite.

There’s little real tension in Rautavaara’s soundworld, yet momentum never dips in the constant interplay of surging, often asymmetric melodies and lush, sweeping textures. The one-movement Fantasia (2015) is just that: uncomplicated and beautifully cohesive in form and expression – while the touching two Serenades (2016/18) are brought to us courtesy of Kalevi Aho’s sensitive completion post-mortem. Perhaps most poignant of all, the short, orchestral In the Beginning (2015) was paradoxically the last piece Rautavaara finished before his death.

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Steph Power