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We’re fast approaching the much-anticipated performances of a beautiful and fascinating late 20th century work by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. At the end of March, the MSO and I will perform his Symphony No.7 Angel of Light (1994) in Hamer Hall.

Rautavaara was a prolific composer who wrote eight symphonies, nine operas, 12 instrumental (and one choral) concertos, plus a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, instrumental, choral and vocal works. He passed in 2016 at age 87.

His compositional style evolved over a long period of time, only really finding it’s recognisable distinctive sound world in the 1980’s. His mature style was a progression through neo-classical, serial and neo-romantic approaches which he was ultimately able to synthesise into a truly personal and unique sound of his own.

The Seventh Symphony was his ‘breakout’ work which established his international reputation and popularity. In some ways it builds on the popular successes of his contemporaries: the Estonian Arvo Pärt and the Polish composer Henryk Górecki as you can hear in this utterly beautiful and fragile slow movement titled Come un sogno (Like a Dream).

Whilst this third movement shows how effectively Rautavaara uses space and time, the other movements display a variety of characters from a dramatic and suspenseful opening Tranquillo through a wonderfully playful and virtuosic Molto Allegro Scherzo-like second movement.

The finale perhaps best captures the connection between Rautavaara and his Finnish predecessor Sibelius who was a great supporter of the young composer in the 1950’s, even recommending him for a scholarship to the US where he studied with composers Aaron Copland and Vincent Persichetti (one of my most admired ‘underrated’ composers).

This final movement captures the true synthesis of Rautavaara’s many compositional influences. The Sibelian mystic landscape tradition can be heard alongside elements of Russian grandeur, even the sounds of pastoralists such as Vaughan-Williams is evident, all woven into an epic, highly unique and unforgettable conclusion to the work. Truly masterful symphonic writing.

I can’t wait to perform this late 20th century masterpiece with the musicians of the MSO, I warmly invite you to join us for what promises to be a memorable and deeply rewarding experience of great orchestral music.

– Benjamin Northey.

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