Thursday, March 01, 2007

Suo (The Marsh)

Einojuhani Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus: Concerto for birds and orchestra (1972) opens with a movement entitled Suo (The Marsh), in which solo flutes are joined by the recorded sound of marsh birds. You might think this would create a rather Japanese-sounding landscape, austere as the Arctic, but instead the flutes flutter up and down playfully and the orchestration becomes quite joyful. This is not surprising because Cantus Arcticus was commissioned for a celebratory occasion: the degree ceremony of the 'Arctic' University of Oulu. The second movement Melankolia starts more bleakly, with Rautavaara using the sound of the shore lark but "brought down by two octaves to make it a 'ghost bird'". Nevertheless this movement too is quite Romantic (a bit too lush for my taste at times) and the last movement, Joutsenet muuttavat (Swans migrating) matches the recorded sound of the swans with a crescendo of rousing strings and brass. And yet, at the end, the whole thing dies away into silence, as "the sound is lost in the distance".

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