Rautavaara A Requiem in Our Time - Cpte Works for Brass

A musically satisfying programme, varied in style (it spans Rautavaara’s entire composing career) and beautifully recorded

Author: 
Rob Cowan

Rautavaara A Requiem in Our Time - Cpte Works for Brass

  • (A) Requiem in our Time
  • Playgrounds for Angels
  • Tarantará
  • Independence Fanfare
  • (A) Soldier's Mass
  • Octet for Winds
  • Hymnus

There’s little hint here of the escapist aura that frames most of Rautavaara’s recent orchestral work. Latest to arrive is the atmospheric Hymnus for trumpet and organ, composed in 1998 for Barry Millington’s Hampstead and Highgate Festival. Hymnus opens and closes in darkness, courting sunlight for a faster central section and couched in a language that is at once florid and austere. Six years earlier Rautavaara had produced a cantata in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Finland’s independence, and his unusually expressive, half-minute Independence Fanfare is fashioned from the same work’s concluding hymn. Solo trumpet is represented by the ruminative but technically demanding Tarantara, superbly played – as is Hymnus – by Pasi Pirinen.
Rautavaara calls A Requiem in Our Time for brass and percussion his ‘breakthrough work’ in that it won him an international composition competition in Cincinnati. That was back in 1953, prior to his studies with Copland, and the musical language seems to give at least half a wink in Vaughan Williams’s direction (specifically in the Dies irae). Dedicated to Rautavaara’s mother (who had died during the war), it’s a rather beautiful piece, more sorrowful than mournful and with some ingeniously crafted faster music.
A Soldier’s Mass (1968) is the Requiem’s nearest musical relation. Rautavaara himself thinks of it as a ‘companion work’, though the forces called for are more generous (‘symphony orchestra wind section’) and the overall spirit is far more extrovert. The 1962 Octet subscribes to an expressively varied dodecaphony, but my favourite work on the disc is the 12-minute Playground for Angels (1981), a sort of musical hide-and-seek with lurking low brass and much quick-witted instrumental interplay. I was at times reminded of Janacek’s Capriccio. It’s a brilliant piece, fun to hear and (I would guess) just as much fun to play. The Finnish Brass Symphony does Rautavaara proud and Ondine’s sound quality is spectacularly fine.'

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