Rautavaara: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Gift of Dreams); Autumn Gardens; plus Rautavaara & Ashkenazy in conversation

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COMPOSERS: Rautavaara
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Gift of Dreams); Autumn Gardens; plus Rautavaara & Ashkenazy in conversation
PERFORMER: Helsinki PO/Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 950-2
The Third Piano Concerto was composed two years ago in response to a commission from Vladimir Ashkenazy for a work that he could also direct from the keyboard. Thirty years have passed since the First, composed at the end of the Sixties, a reaction against the then prevalent serialism and ‘a return to expressiveness’ and a ‘grand-style keyboard technique’ (Rautavaara’s own words). The latter is less evident here, for this is predominantly (though not wholly) reflective and lyrical in feeling. It is less concerned with display than growth. The primary motivic cell comes from his 1978 Baudelaire setting ‘Le mort des pauvres’, in which the words ‘le don des rêves’ occur. A dreamlike state also pervades Autumn Gardens. At times through the foliage one almost catches, as it were, a glimpse of a Sibelian landscape with woodwind in thirds. The traces of Bartók and Prokofiev that surface in the First Concerto are fully assimilated, though my thoughts turned to Honegger from time to time, for Rautavaara’s use of triads moving in contrary motion and his refined harmonic sense is paralleled there. Both works grow naturally and organically, and inhabit their own distinctive spiritual world. Thanks to the persuasive advocacy of these artists, they cast quite a spell, in state-of-the-art sound. The final track contains a short and charming conversation between Rautavaara and Ashkenazy. Robert Layton

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