On Einojuhani Rautavaara’s “Incantations” for Percussion and Orchestra

It is a great honor to announce the release on Cd by Ondine of “Incantations” by Einojuhani Rautavaara. I am honoured to share the cd with the great Norwegian cellist Trus Mork, who also presents a recent work of the composer “Towards the Horizon”. The marvellous orchestra is The Helsinki Philharmonic conducted by my close friend John Storgards.

“Incantations” holds a special place in my repertoire, and is best described perhaps as the truly great “romantic concerto” for the solo percussionist. I approached this composer with the following in mind, that the end result would be a work of great drama, mystery and power, such was my experience hearing previous works of his. Also, I was thinking that the piece would most likely trace the structure of the familiar romantic concerto; employ bold sweeping themes, recapitulation of material at key moments, a haunting and beautiful slow movement perhaps, a cadenza…and indeed it proved to be so, and how! What excited me immediately about this was that as a percussionist, I had never had a chance to partake in this kind of musical structure in the pieces I play, as they are often housed in more abstract architecture. So – finally, a “classic” for my repertoire.
One of the things that so thrilled and moved me about getting this concerto off the ground was the initial trip to Helsinki to meet the great man at his apartment. Rather frail due to a very difficult health condition, he greeted me warmly at the front door, and I shook the hand that in turn shook that of Jean Sibelius. No sooner had I crossed the threshold however, than Mr Rautavaara proceeded to seat himself at the grand piano in the lounge area and launch into the searing opening theme from his latest work – a concerto for me! And this meeting was scheduled as a “meet-and-greet”! I was humbled down to my shoes.
Following this, we corresponded often, tweaking notes and percussion instrumentation, and I worked hard for about three weeks myself in the summer of 2009 to compose the cadenza, a task that I both relished and enjoyed. The premiers in London, Rotterdam, Tampere and Baltimore saw the work grow considerably under my hands, as I learned to dare to produce the often rather strong yet maximally lyrical tone needed for much of the music. The recording, made in January 2011 in a very wintery Helsinki sounds glorious I think – bold and richly dramatic, expansive yet mysterious.

I hope you will enjoy this recording, a strong and adventurous addition to the percussion discography.

Warmly, Colin

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