Rautavaara: Cantus arcticus; Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Rautavaara
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Cantus arcticus; Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Laura Mikkola (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554147
Thanks to the enterprise of BIS and Ondine, Rautavaara enjoys generous representation in the catalogue, but this is his first appearance on a bargain label. The CD centres on the Sixties with the Third Symphony (1960) and the First Piano Concerto (1969), coupling them with the popular Cantus arcticus ‘for birds and orchestra’ (1972) in which taped bird-cries are blended with imaginatively conceived orchestral sonorities. The Piano Concerto marks a reaction against serialism and in Rautavaara’s own words ‘a return to expressiveness’ and a ‘grand-style keyboard technique’, which Laura Mikkola commands to good effect. The harmonic vocabulary ultimately derives from Bartók, Prokofiev and Ravel but Rautavaara’s writing has panache. The earlier Third Symphony leaves no doubt that Rautavaara has the real breadth of a symphonist: there is a sense of forward movement and of space. At times there is a whiff of Bruckner and at one point I was even reminded of the American symphonists of the Forties, though I hasten to add he is his own man. The composer himself speaks of it as being ‘freely constructed and emphatically tonal’. It is, I think, emphatically well played, too, by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Hannu Lintu and very well recorded. A good inexpensive alternative to existing recommendations, and excellent value for money. Robert Layton

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