Einojuhani Rautavaara (b.1928)

As Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara celebrates his 80th birthday this week, Donald Macleod presents a survey of his life and music, with excerpts specially recorded for the programme by Rautavaara himself.



Macleod begins with a look at the formative experiences of Rautavaara's childhood.

02Studies Abroad20081007

Donald Macleod charts Rautavaara's progress as he heads off to broaden his musical horizons in America and Europe, and winning first prize at the Cincinnati Composers Competition in 1954 opened up several opportunities for the young composer.

String Quartet No 1 (Presto)

Jean Sibelius Quartet

Ondine, ODE 909-2, track 5

Raise No Memorial (Five Sonnets to Orpheus, 1954-5)

Jyrki Korhonen (basso profundo)

Iikka Paananen (piano)

BIS, BIS-CD-1141, track 22

Symphony No 1

National Orchestra of Belgium

Mikko Franck (conductor)

Ondine, ODE 1064-5, tracks 1-3

The Baptism of Christ; The Holy Woman at the Sepulchre; Archangel Michael defeats the Antichrist (Icons)

Laura Mikkola (piano)

Naxos 8.554292, tracks 10-12

Ludus Verbalis

Lulea Chamber Choir

Einar Isacson (conductor)

BIS, BIS-CD-66, track 9

Love Song (The Lovers)

Gabriel Suovanen (baritone)

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Leif Segerstam (conductor)

Ondine, ODE 1085-2, track 9


The Finnish landscape is an influence that Rautavaara readily acknowledges in his music.

Folk-tales originally gathered in the countryside were an integral part of national identity and, as a young boy, his father used to tell him tales from the Kalevala, Finland's folk-lore epic, as bedtime stories.

Yet, when it came to music, Rautavaara initially steered clear of Finland's folklore.

He felt that the Kalevala belonged to his forebear Sibelius rather than to a young composer, but later on, in works such as The First Runo for chamber choir, Rautavaara found the means to express his connection with his folk heritage.

Hallin Janne

Amici Cantus

Hannu Norjanen (conductor)

Finlandia, 3984-21444-2, CD 1 track 6

A Soldier's Mass

Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra

Clark Rundell (conductor)

Chandos CHAN10038, tracks 2-5

The First Runo

BBC Singers

Paul Brough (conductor)

BBC Recording


Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra

Juha Kangas (conductor)

Ondine ODE 836-2

Thomas (excerpt from Act 3)

Anssi Hirvonen (tenor)

Hannu Sokka and Jaakko Hietikko (basses)

Sini Rautavaara (soprano)

Peter Lindroos (tenor)

Matti Pipponen (tenor)

Antti Suhonen (baritone)

Jorma Hynninen (baritone)

Choir of the Joensuu Music School

Savonlinna Opera Festival Chorus

Joensuu City Orchestra

Pekka Haapasalo (conductor)

Ondine, ODE 704-2, disc 2, tracks 11-15

A Finnish Myth

Ondine, ODE 836-2, track 6

04The Mystic20081009

Religious and metaphysical subjects have been a continuing source of fascination for Rautavaara.

The key to his belief lies not in a specific doctrine, but in the words of the German philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher that 'true religion is sense and taste for the infinite'.

Another theme within Rautavaara's work stems from his belief in the existence of angels - but for him, the angel is not golden and cherubic and a rather more menacing figure as described by the German poet Rilke.

Kyrie (Lapsimessu, 1973)

Tapiola Children's Choir

Espoo Chamber Orchestra

Erkki and Paavo Pohjla (conductors)

BIS, BIS-CD-66, track 10


Pasi Pirinen (trumpet)

Seppa Murto (organ)

Ondine, ODE957-2, track 15

Troparion; Troparion of the Feast; Final Blessing (Vigilia)

Jyrki Korhonen (bass)

Topi Lehtipuu (tenor)

Pia Freund (soprano)

Lilli Paasikivi (mezzo-soprano)

Petteri Salomaa (baritone)

Finnish Radio Chamber Choir

Timo Nuoranne (conductor)

Ondine, ODE910-2, tracks 12-14

Symphony No 7 (Angel of Light)

Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Osmo Vanska (conductor)

BIS, BIS-CD-1038, tracks 1-4

05 LASTThe Creative Process20081010

Donald Macleod concludes the survey of the life and works of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara with an exploration of some of his compositional techniques and the ideologies behind them.

Borrowing a quote from Thomas Mann, Rautavaara sees compositions as having a 'sort of metaphysical mind of their own', with the composer's role being one of a mediator or perhaps a mid-wife.

He says the music tells you where it wants to go and it is the composer's job to help the music live on its own terms.


Laura Mikkola (piano)

Naxos, 8.554292, tracks 20-22

Vincent (end of Act 1)

Matti Heinikari (tenor)

Sini Rautavaara (soprano)

Finnish National Opera Orchestra

Fuat Manchurov (conductor)

Ondine, ODE 750-2, track 7

Concerto for Harp and Orchestra (3rd mvt)

Marielle Nordmann (harp)

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Leif Segerstam (conductor)

Ondine, ODE 978-2, track 3

Sonata for Flutes and Guitar

Gunilla von Bahr (flutes)

Diego Blanco (guitar)

BIS, BIS-CD-66, track 3

Manhattan Trilogy

Ondine, ODE1090-5, tracks 4-7