Väinö Raitio (1891–1945) is one of those Finnish composers from the generation after Sibelius and before the post-War boom – a generation still insufficiently known in Finland itself, let alone further afield. The fundamental problem is one of personality: Sibelius was Sibelius almost from the start, whereas this recital of Raitio’s piano music – presented in chronological order – shows his personality morphing as it catches new ideas from elsewhere.
The harmonic clarity of the opening Toccata and Andante point to a familiarity with Busoni (who had taught in Helsinki in 1888–90), and the Danse macabre has echoes of a Russian folk-dance. But Opp. 4 and 8 (1914–16) show Raitio beginning to yield to the charms of French Impressionism. The music is often very lovely (Op. 8, No. 5, “The Naiad at Play”, is exquisite), and the writing points to his own proficiency as a pianist, but his identity is beginning to slip from sight, to be replaced mainly by Debussy’s and occasionally by Sibelius’ – and, as with Sibelius, there’s often a strong sense of nature.
With Op, 14, probably from 1918, Raitio begins to show an awareness of Skryabin, and his is the shadow increasingly cast over the remaining pieces, as the grasp of tonality becomes looser and Raitio explores chromaticism.
Jean Dubé’s virtues here are that he gives the music time to speak and that he reproduces its textures with commendable clarity, to which the recorded sound does full justice. Hanna Isolammi provides informative notes.
Every one of these pieces has its attractions; some even deserve a place in the concert repertoire. And it may be that Raitio’s own personality remains elusive simply because we don’t know enough of his music (he was apparently a very shy man). He is, at least, well served in this illuminating recital.
RAITIO: Piano Works
Jean Dubé (piano)
Syrius SYR 141491