The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Little sense of indulgent nostalgia in violin works by a Finnish master looking back
Musicians: Pekka Kuusisto (violin) Paavali Jumppanen (piano)
Lost Landscapes (2005) conveys the memories of a septuagenarian recalling student days spent in America’s Tanglewood summer school, reliving his period immersed in twelve-note technique, and eventually arriving in the bustling life of New York. The dawn of the 21st century was also a time when Rautavaara revisited an incomplete 1970 score for April Lines, and reworked his Summer Thoughts begun in 1972. All three now receive their first recordings.
Three further tracks cover the set pieces he wrote for Helsinki’s Sibelius Violin Competitions in the 1970s and a junior equivalent, including the charming Notturno e danza. A solo piano work, Pelimannit (The Fiddlers), is based on Finnish folk melodies, and here each movement is preceded by the violin melody Rautavaara used, though the idea pales on repeated hearing.
The highly impressive young Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto enjoys the passages of tonality in his lyrical approach to the composer’s three most recent works. Few could come closer in rising to the demands of the many challenging passages where rhythms and intonation are at their most complex – Dithyrambos becomes a stunning display of agility. His duo partner, Paavali Jumppanen, responds splendidly to the piano’s equally demanding role. The balance between violin and piano is perfect on a disc of outstanding sonic quality.