Rautavaara – Choral Music

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COMPOSERS: Rautavaara
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Suite de Lorca; Canción de nuestro tiempo; Canticum Mariae Virginis; Magnificat; Our joyful’st feast; In the Shade of the Willow; Die erste Elegie
PERFORMER: Oxford Schola Cantorum/ James Burton


From the vibrancy of the very first track, the lively imagination of Rautavaara’s writing for voices, the pungent palette of the Schola Cantorum of Oxford, and the clarity and spatial excitement of this record, are immediately apparent.

And this anthology of Lorca and Rilke settings, of Marian canticles and of Finnish poetry also reveals Rautavaara the great recycler. Like Handel, his huge output makes sometimes pragmatic, often artfully transformative use of much of his own earlier music.

So here, the murmuring crescendos of Canción de nuestro tiempo of 1993 takes up where the 1973 Suite de Lorca leaves off. And those familiar with Rautavaara’s early opera Thomas will more than likely recognise a trick or two in Canción’s ‘Meditación primera y última’, with its fine male-voice solos that ring through the haunting, oscillating sound-field of Lorca’s ‘forest of clocks’.

One of the most fascinating transformations is in the only Finnish-language piece on this disc: In the Shade of the Willow features potent choral adaptations of solo settings of poems by Aleksis Kivi from Rautavaara’s eponymous opera.


The Schola Cantorum sings in excellent Finnish – and also enjoys Rautavaara’s take on English inflections in the wintry Shakespeare settings of Our joyful’st feast – the premiere recording of a gentle and harmonically seductive work from 2008, the composer’s 80th birthday year. Hilary Finch