Rautavaara: Symphony No. 7 (Angel of Light); Dances with the Winds; Cantus arcticus

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rautavaara
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Symphony No. 7 (Angel of Light); Dances with the Winds; Cantus arcticus
PERFORMER: Petri Alanko (flutes); Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1038
Barely three years have elapsed since Leif Segerstam’s pioneering account of the Seventh Symphony with the Helsinki Philharmonic on Ondine. Now comes another Finnish version from the Lahti Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, which is every bit as atmospheric and powerful and which can now be said to displace the former’s benchmark position. It certainly has the advantage of superlative recorded sound, very much in the demonstration bracket (though to be fair so is the Ondine, which scores in front-to-back perspective).

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The Seventh Symphony comes from 1994-5 and finds the composer at his most imaginative. It is not programmatic in any way; its subtitle merely relates it to the archetypal Angel series which began 20 years ago with Angels and Visitations. But the luminous sound-world of the slow movement and its quiet radiance justify the title. The Seventh strikes me as his strongest symphony so far, and arguably the finest Finnish symphony of the Nineties. Those who have already acquired it on Ondine will not want (or need) to change, but for those coming to this music afresh, I would recommend this newcomer for its concentration and intensity. While attentive to every nuance and detail of colour, Vänskä also keeps the music moving and to my mind casts the stronger spell. Both the Cantus arcticus and the Dances with the Winds, a concerto for one flautist/four flutes and orchestra, come from the early Seventies, and these excellent performances have been out before in other couplings. This issue will make many new friends for this fine composer. Robert Layton