EINOJUHANI RAUTAVAARA: Suite de Lorca; Cancion de nuestro tiempo; Canticum Mariae virginis; Magnificat; Our joyful’st feast; Halavan himmean alla; Die erste Elegie – Schola Cantorum of Oxford/ James Burton – Hyperion 67787, 72:19 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Einojuhani Rautavaara is nearly a household name in Finland now, almost handpicked by Sibelius as a successor, and a man who despite his initial flirtations with serialism has embraced a freely tonal and Romantic aesthetic since the 1970s. He has works in all forms (his Cantus arcticus is one of his most popular “symphonies”) and is a master in the scoring of any ensemble work he happens to take up.
In Finland his choral work is legendary, and is becoming so around the world, with the proliferation of performances of pieces like the Suite de Lorca, a companion piece to his Children’s Mass and entered into a local competition (it finished third!). And for an example of how brilliant his choral writing is, one need only turn to the 1979 Magnificat, a fabulous pentatonic-based piece that surely stretches the choral singers to the limit.
If an hour of Finnish choral music sounds like a chore to you, think again; this is as engrossing as anything you will play this year, and just might make you seek out more of this composer’s work—it is certainly worth the effort and investment. The Schola Cantorum of Oxford sings like champs for James Burton in this winning and stunningly-sounding Hyperion disc. A must for choral aficionados and all others with an open and inquisitive musical mind.
— Steven Ritter