RAUTAVAARA: Aleksis Kivi
FALLA: La Vida Breve
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E
Eino Rautavaara (b. 1928) is best known for his 1972 Cantus Arcticus in
which he incorporated the sounds of birds. His works include 8 symphonies,
many concertos for a wide variety of instruments, and choral music, along
with 9 operas few of which are heard outside of Finland. His eighth
opera, Aleksis Kivi, composed 1995-1996, is about the
author who wrote the first major Finnish novel, Seven Brothers.
Rautavaara's opera tells the tragic story of the Kivi's life, his idyllic
productivity, criticism of his work, and final depression and drunken
breakdown. Rautavaara's music is not note-spinning. Scored for a small
(strings, two clarinets, percussion and synthesiser), the score always
cushions the text which was written by the composer. This performance
could be considered definitive. Jorma Hynninen created the title role
in 1997, and can be heard in a recording made more than a decade ago.
He is moving indeed, particularly in the Epilogue as he faces the reality
of death. The
cast obviously is dedicated to this project, and Mikko Franck's conducting
could not be bettered. The simple sets and costumes do not detract
from the music. This performance was recorded in October 2010 by the
Broadcasting Company, and they did a superb job: video and stereo sound
are excellent. The 23-minute bonus includes conversations with the
composer, Hynninen and Franck. Check out this recording, a superb presentation
of a gentle but powerful opera.
Romanian Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) is one of the most revered conductors of our time. Although he had little experience, in 1945 he was appointed principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic when Wilhelm Furtwängler was suspended because of his Nazi activities. For seven years he conducted exciting performances, but over the years became more eccentric and demanding, offending many players in the Orchestra. He left under unpleasant circumstances when Furtwängler returned, and for many years appeared as guest conductor with other orchesstras, but only if permitted him unlimited rehearsals. Celibidache was leader for a short time of various orchestras including the Stuttgart Radio, Stockholm Radio Symphony and the French National Orchestra, but his major position began in Munich in 1979 and continued until his death. Some of his Munich performances have been issued on DVD, many more on CD. Often his penchant for slow tempi resulted in clear but rather boring interpretations, but when he was at his best, he was extraordinary. Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 is a work available on DVD, a performance from 1985 with the Munich orchestra, as well as CDs with Munich and Stuttgart. Symphony No. 7 is featured on this unique Euroarts DVD, a concert taped March 31/April 1, 1992, the first and last time, after 38 years, Celibadache conducted the BPO. It is a powerful performance, micromanaged by the conductor as can be seen from the rehearsal. Video is excellent, with rasonably good stereo sound. The 54-minute documentary is fascinating, offering excerpts from meticulous rehearsals along with commentary about the conductor's career. A fascinating, historic release in every way!
R.E.B. (June 2012)