Opposites, Contrasts Abound in Finnish Composer's Concertos
Einojuhani Rautavaara: 12 Concertos for strings, winds, piano, harp, organ, and birds. Elmar Olivera, violin; Marko Ylönen, cello; Esko Laine, double bass; and others; various orchestras and conductors (Ondine)?
The expression worn by the handsome Finnish composer in his cover photograph, taken in 1948, seems quite in keeping with his provocative statement that his concertos symbolize the dramatic conflict between the individual (the soloist) and the collective (the orchestra). Though different, these works, written over four decades and featured on a four-CD set, share several traits: the juxtaposition of opposites; the violent contrasts between dynamics, textures, colors, and moods; the colorful orchestration; and the tendency to stretch the soloists’ technical and tonal resources. In the violin, cello, and bass concertos, the solo parts go into the highest stratosphere and require the players to produce double-stops, chords, jumps, high-speed runs, and every imaginable sound effect. The performances by three consummate string virtuosos are quite breathtaking, as is that of the Clarinet Concerto, played here by its dedicatee, Richard Stoltzman.
The three Piano Concertos are full of tone clusters, instrumental fireworks, and effects. Rautavaara (b. 1928) wrote the first one for himself in 1969, the second 20 years later for his great compatriot Ralf Gothóni, who gives a stunning performance of both, and the third for Vladimir Ashkenazy, who also conducts.