Hyperion Records

Halavan himmeän alla 'In the shade of the willow'
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
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'Rautavaara: Choral Music' (CDA67787)
Rautavaara: Choral Music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67787 
Movement 1: Ikävyys 'Melancholy'  Mi hämäryys, mikävyys 'What gloominess, what misery'
Movement 2: Laulu oravasta 'Song of the squirrel'  Makeasti oravainen 'Slumber sweetly, little squirrel'
Movement 3: Sydämeni laulu 'Song of my heart'  Tuonen lehto, öinen lehto! 'Grove of Tuoni, grove nocturnal!'

Halavan himmeän alla 'In the shade of the willow'
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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