Rautavaara: Angel of Dusk; Symphony No. 2; A Finnish Myth; Pelimannit

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rautavaara
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Rautavaara
WORKS: Angel of Dusk; Symphony No. 2; A Finnish Myth; Pelimannit
PERFORMER: Esko Laine (double bass); Tapiola Sinfonietta/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
CATALOGUE NO: CD-910

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If the idea of a concerto for double bass and orchestra sounds unappealing, not to say implausible, that is to reckon without the imaginative talents of the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. His Angel of Dusk is just such a concerto and it is typical of this tirelessly inventive musician that he turns any limitations of the medium to his advantage. Experimenting with new playing techniques, Rautavaaara makes expressive us of the instrument’s highest range, accompanied by some gorgeous tone colours from the orchestra. Esko Laine’s solo performance is a tour de force.

The Second Symphony is less immediately arresting, but in this later (1984) version, the scoring is richer than in the original 1957 composition and Jean-Jacques Kantorow secures a coherent reading of a significant work from the players of the excellent Tapiola Sinfonietta.

Pelimannit, or ‘Fiddlers’, is Rautavaara’s wild evocation of the weird figures from the folk tradition of Finland’s South Ostrobothnian region. These five short pieces, by turns eccentric, melancholic and burlesque, are delivered with admirable crispness and dark humour.

Barry Millington

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(Review Editor’s Choice, June 1998)