EINOJUHANI RAUTAVAARA (1928-2016): Vigilia.
Catalogue Number: 09V052
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: Think of this as a Finnish equivalent of Rachmaninov's All-night Vigil (Vespers). Anyone who loves that glorious pinnacle of just about any choral tradition, anywhere, or at any time in history owes it to themselves to hear this. The work was commissioned by the Orthodox Church of Finland, and it was stipulated that its premiere was to take place on the Feast of St John the Baptist, which was also a Sunday in that year. For this reason it differs substantially in theological terms from the Rachmaninov, which contains only the standard vigil texts, whereas Rautavaara's work was originally conceived, and first performed, as an all-night service proper to the occasion. This version, the only one now approved by the composer, condenses the work for concert performance but retains the commemoration of John the Baptist. Throughout the composition of Vigilia, Rautavaara immersed himself in the Orthodox liturgy and the traditions of choral singing in the church, and he drew inspiration from a childhood experience "almost a revelation in fact" - a visit to a monastery that he describes in a note that reads like a prose poem. Vigilia's 34 movements follow traditional forms used in Orthodox ecclesiastical singing, with great textural variation through the interchange of soloists and chorus to emphasize different aspects of the text. In terms of sheer beauty of harmony and texture, Vigilia must rank among the finest achievements of the 20th century; in a tonal idiom haloed by subtle dissonance, that draws on traditional chant and church modes, matching the mystical archaic texts with timeless music, dense choral textures alternating with unison or solo lines, Rautavaara flawlessly evokes lofty, dim candle-lit church interiors, the solemn liturgy and the sacred mysteries of faith. Niall Chorell (tenor), Tuukka Haapaniemi (bass), Helsinki Chamber Choir; Nils Schweckendiek.