Rautavaara: On the Last Frontier; Flute Concerto (Dances with the Winds); Anadyomene

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COMPOSERS: Rautavaara
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: On the Last Frontier; Flute Concerto (Dances with the Winds); Anadyomene
PERFORMER: Patrick Gallois (flute); Finnish Philharmonic Choir, Helsinki PO/Leif Segerstam
Anadyomene, or Adoration of Aphrodite, comes from the late Sixties, and was originally to have been called Riverrun (resonances of Finnegans Wake), though once Rautavaara embarked on the piece, its musical inspiration took on an independent life. It’s a gripping, highly imaginative score, expertly laid out for the orchestra – and not otherwise available on CD. In Dances with the Winds, his Concerto for Flute (or rather flutes since the soloist employs bass, alto flute and piccolo), composed in 1974 for Gunilla von Bahr, Rautavaara has created a work of strong atmosphere and haunting beauty. It could scarcely enjoy more persuasive advocacy than it does from its distinguished soloist, who plays with effortless virtuosity. On the Last Frontier, a fantasy for chorus and orchestra, is hot off the press, being composed in 1997 and recorded only last October. Its inspiration comes from the evocative closing paragraphs of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which the composer read as a boy translated as ‘Secret of the Deep’ and which fired his imagination. Its description of the voyage towards the South Pole resonated in his memory all those years until he himself, then on the threshold of his seventies, felt that he, too, was approaching the mysterious last frontier. The performances under Leif Segerstam are powerful and convincing, and the recording has plenty of space and presence. An impressive addition to the Rautavaara discography. Robert Layton