, by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), sets three lyrical poems from the Kanteletar
, a huge collection of folk poetry collated by scholar-physician Elias Lönnrot between 1840-41 which made a decisive contribution to the awakening of national consciousness at a time when Finland was still a grand duchy of Russia. Composed in 1893 Sibelius submitted Rakastava
for a competition arranged by the Helsinki University Chorus. It came second, the jury perhaps being startled by its modernity. The first performance in 1894 was in an arrangement for male chorus and strings. Sibelius arranged it again in 1898 for mixed chorus, and in 1911-12 he revised it completely for strings, triangle and timpani, in which form it is best known. The critics at the first performance were quick to recognise the mastery of this earthy and erotic picture of young love. The first movement is elegiac in mood and has the flavour of a folksong. The second movement breathes a restrained yet intense joy and is surprisingly innovative in texture. The final movement is about the sorrow of parting and refers back thematically to the first. The work dies away in a coda in which the two lovers are engulfed by the sad harmonies of the summer night.
from notes by The King's Singers © 2006