Rhinegold

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Einojuhani Rautavaara (9 October 1928 – 27 July 2016)

10:15, 28th July 2016

Einojuhani Rautavaara died aged 97 on 27 July of complications following an operation.

Arguably the most highly regarded Finnish composer after Sibelius, Rautavaara was best known for his later work, which explored mystical ideas and incorporated sounds of nature.

Rautavaara studied at the Sibelius Academy (where he would later teach for 44 years) under Aare Merikanto before winning a scholarship to Juilliard. He studied with Vincent Persichetti, but also took lessons from Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland at Tanglewood.

He first came to international attention in 1954 when he won the Thor Johnson Contest for A Requiem in Our Time, but his major breakthrough came with his seventh symphony, Angel of Light, in 1994.

His early works used serial techniques, but he moved towards neo-romanticism from the 1960s. He gave his works evocative and even mystical titles, such as Daughter of the Sea (a 1971 concerto for soprano, choir and orchestra) and Gift of Dreams (his 1980 double bass concerto).

When questioned about his beliefs, Rautavaara said: ‘I have no religion, although officially I am Lutheran; I have only a sense of depth and mystery.’

Rautavaara suffered an aortic dissection in January 2004. He had to spend almost half a year in intensive care but recovered and continued composing.

The last work to be premiered during his lifetime was Orpheus singt, a setting of Rainer Maria Rilke for a cappella chorus performed on 25 June 2016 at the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele by the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, conducted by Marcus Creed.

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