A strong oceanic emotional appeal, visceral at times, together with a conscious ‘affinity for infinity’, characterises all of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s music. He is a true neo-mystic composer – to use musicologist Susanna Valimaki’s term – whose creative work is first and foremost a continuous search for answers to metaphysical and existential questions. A resulting downside of this compositional approach may be that one always pretty much knows what to expect when listening to a new Rautavaara work.
Fortunately, as the present Ondine release of Rautavaara’s sacred choral music shows, that “what” is never boring or banal. His recognisable triad-seeking serialism runs through from the early Ave Maria, gratia plena to choral works of the 21st century (like Our Joyful’st Feast) but for every composition he manages to find an unexpected twist. The main focus here is on the composer’s recent Missa a cappella. You can’t help being charmed by the timeless beauty of this music.
Could there be a better performance than what the Latvian Radio Choir and Sigvards Kļava are able to put on? Hardly. It is elegant and harmonically precise throughout. A few harsh-ish squeaks in the high voices, e.g. in the Sanctus of the Missa duodecanonica, don’t matter that much.