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Hyperion Records

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Mystical Tree (1996) by Peter Davidson (d1999)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67787
Recording details: March 2009
Exeter College Chapel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by Andrew Mellor
Release date: January 2010
Total duration: 11 minutes 22 seconds

'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 spacial excitement of this record, are immediately apparent' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The music may be as soft-centred as melting chocolate, but the performances have real fire and beauty' (The Irish Times)

Halavan himmeän alla 'In the shade of the willow'
composer
1998; three songs to the texts of Aleksis Kivi, musical content extracted from Rautavaara's opera Aleksis Kivi; choral version for Philip Brunelle and the 1999 Plymouth music series of Minnesota
author of text

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Rautavaara has written several operas featuring a central character based on an actual historical person: Thomas (1985; a semi-mythical thirteenth-century Bishop of Finland); Vincent (1987; van Gogh); Aleksis Kivi (1996); and Rasputin (2003). Aleksis Kivi (1834– 1872) was a Finnish author who enjoyed some success in his lifetime but was driven to depression and an early death by devastating criticism of his Realist prose, which clashed with then current Romantic values. He was posthumously hailed as a genius, and his Seitsemän veljestä (‘Seven brothers’) is the first novel written in Finnish.

In Rautavaara’s opera Aleksis Kivi, poems by Kivi are sung by the title character outside the stage action in a sort of arioso format, with a steadily pulsing chordal background. When Rautavaara was asked to write a new choral work for a festival of his music in Minnesota in 1999, he decided to adapt extracts from the opera for choir, and titled the work Halavan himmeän alla (‘In the shade of the willow’). The original baritone melody is largely doubled in octaves, and the lugubrious orchestration is reproduced in a sonorous choral texture.

The first song, Ikävyys (‘Melancholy’), sets a sombre tone with a string of minor chords, again governed by a twelve-tone row. The second, Laulu oravasta (‘Song of the squirrel’), appears to be in a more positive mood, but the poem is pure escapism and in its original setting (in the novel Seitsemän veljestä) represents a longing for a carefree life in the woods away from society. The third, Sydämeni laulu (‘Song of my heart’), comes towards the end of the opera. It is an achingly poignant poem known to virtually all Finns and best known musically in the setting by Sibelius, the popularity of which initially made Rautavaara hesitate to set this text in his opera.

from notes by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi © 2010

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