RAUTAVAARA Violin Concerto; Isle of Bliss; Angels and Visitations Elmar Oliveira (violin) Helsinki Philharmonic / Leif Segerstam Ondine ODE 881-2; Records of the Week
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Friday 04 April 1997
Rautavaara is fast finding recognition as a master of the searching, the mystical and meditative, of music which is dream-like but precisely remembered - far removed from the vagaries of "New Age". The Violin Concerto begins its "journey through a world without frontiers" (to quote Milan Kundera on symphonic music) in the ascendant: a seraphic cantilena emerging from a timeless chiming. The stuff of fairy tales grows trenchant a la Shostakovich and capricious a la Prokofiev but without the inbred mordancy of either. Rautavaara flounders when he contrives to be humorous or dramatic as opposed to sensory. The accompanied cadenza of the Concerto (comic exclamation that is anything but), or the strenuous "visitations" of Angels and Visitations - which might usefully serve as the soundtrack to a John Carpenter slasher film - are second-rate episodes in potentially first- rate pieces. But Rautavaara always comes back from the bathos. Inspiration strikes suddenly, unexpectedly. His best ideas are tiny revelations seemingly born in the writing of them. Like the solo oboe obbligato which picks its way through the twilight zone of the Concerto's second movement. And as the violin takes hold of the oboe's guiding hand - mid-sentence, as it were - you know you're in the presence of a real composer. The performances are each of them labours of love, the recording amply accommodating of Rautavaara's imposing soundscapes. Endangered innocence -
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