Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928) was one of the most colourful and diverse figures in Finnish music. He was an artist of exceptionally broad scope, at once Romantic and intellectual, mysticist and constructivist. He went through a great many stages in his stylistic development, yet he combined different stylistic elements in post-modernist fashion within individual works. Having graduated from Helsinki University in 1952, he studied at the Sibelius Academy with Aarre Merikanto and, after winning a Koussevitzky Foundation fellowship in 1955, with Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School, as well as with Aaron Copland and Roger Sessions at Tanglewood. He furthered his studies in Ascona with Vladimir Vogel and in Cologne with Rudolf Petzold. A lecturer at the Sibelius Academy from 1966 to 1971, he was then appointed to the state position of Professor in Arts. Since 1990 he devoted himself exclusively to composition, his music having received numerous awards and been featured on many recordings.
Rautavaara’s early pieces, typified by the prizewinning A Requiem in Our Time (1953), drew upon the Nordic classicism of Sibelius and Nielsen, as well as the influences of Bartók, Shostakovich and folk-music. His Fourth Symphony (1962) was among the first Finnish works to employ serial techniques, while the later widening of his stylistic range gave rise, in 1972, to two of his most enduring works, Vigilia, drawing on Orthodox liturgical chant, and Cantus Arcticus (Naxos 8.554147), employing taped birdsong alongside modal and aleatoric (chance-derived) elements. A greater tonal orientation is evident in his more recent music, such as the Symphonies Nos. 5 to 8 (No. 7 on Naxos 8.555814) and operas Thomas (1985), Vincent (1987) and Aleksis Kivi (1997). Meanwhile, the growing recognition accorded his music can be gauged from the international commissions he received over the last decade. Rautavaara died on 27 July 2016 at the age of 87.
“It is my belief that music is great if, at some moment, the listener catches ‘a glimpse of eternity through the window of time’… This, to my mind, is the only true justification for art. All else is of secondary importance.” – Einojuhani Rautavaara