Rautavaara: A Requiem in Our Time; Octet for winds; Playgrounds for Angels

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COMPOSERS: Rautavaara
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: A Requiem in Our Time; Octet for winds; Playgrounds for Angels
PERFORMER: Pasi Pirinen (trumpet); Finnish Brass Symphony/Hannu Lintu
Rautavaara’s prolific compositional career has spanned 50 years so far. Wind and brass players are fortunate that at regular intervals he has found time to enrich their chamber music repertoire. These seven pieces, ranging from 40 seconds to 15 minutes and from 1953 to 1998, all demonstrate the continuous evolution of his musical language and his fascination with new instrumental textures and sonorities. First apparent in the early Requiem, and A Soldier’s Mass (1968), where he voices the instruments in an enlightened but still conservative manner, it reaches fruition in Playgrounds for Angels (1981). Here the whole range of instrumental colours, articulations, mutes, multiphonics and dynamics are fused into a glorious display piece for brass; strange, ingenious and highly charged, but where pure musical invention still has the upper hand. It may be that he was inspired by the consistently high standard of playing in his native Finland that is manifested here. The players of the Finnish Brass Symphony are in turn virtuosic, mellifluous and passionate, nonchalantly taking in their stride some considerable technical hurdles. The rhythms are always crisp and tight, tone colours skilfully blended, but having the smaller ensembles conducted lends them a businesslike orchestral ambience lacking the friendly generosity of genuine chamber music. Christopher Mowat